It was startling to learn today from the World Health Organisation that air pollution now is one of the most pernicious threats to global public health, with only one person in 10 living in a pollution level considered to be safe.
Living as I do in a very rural area, I have believed, with gratitude, that the air here was relatively pure. I was wrong. It may be that it is better than London or Beijing, but because toxic air filled with pollutants is dispersed by wind and weather often for hundreds of miles, even in the Cambrian Mountains we are impacted by the fumes of the cities and the roads in the UK. Only yesterday I noticed how grimy my windows are, and wondered how they could get so dirty in this quiet country place: now I know.
The focus of the WHO findings was the effect of pollution on human health, but we need to remember that poor air impacts everything that lives, from wildlife to the chickens that give us eggs. It is not surprising that nature is struggling as she is challenged by the degradation of the air, the waters and the lands all, sadly, done by us through carelessness and thoughtlessness.
Personally and collectively, we humans make mistakes all the time, and our task is to learn from them and do better. We can be slow learners! We know now that building on a flood plain is a bad idea, and that beavers are a wonderful natural (and cheap) way of preventing flooding and managing waterways: despite this the old ways of building houses wherever possible continues, despite the risks, and solutions, that are recognised. We know that biofuels overall do much more harm than good, taking up as they do land resources needed for food and forests that protect the planet and are so important for wildlife, but few people are willing to address, or stop, a problematic practice.
It is when human beings are adversely affected by an aspect of life that something is done about it. When severe floods devastate parts of the country at great cost, in every sense, as they will, practical, workable policies about flood management may at last be put into place. Now that air pollution is at a crisis level, killing hundreds of thousands children every year, something must be done to require clean vehicles, clean heating systems, and clean factories. Now that contaminated seas are known to be impacting human health, efforts have begun to find ways to resolve this serious problem. Nature then will benefit, as it should.
There is so much karma in all of this: we are starting to experience the results of past choices, and it is painful, because some of them have been mis-judged, and neglectful. Decisive action to do what is ethically right, not politically expedient nor personally advantageous, will redress the karma and create a new global environment that is beneficial to everyone and everything. Who, I wonder, will lead the drive for a clean, healthy, happy Planet?