The Toxicity of Our Times

Recently, I read an article that described the severe hazards that prevail in Beijing, China’s capital city and also one of its most polluted.

The article gives you a very grim view of the situation there. It described the city as something of a futuristic scene. The entire city is covered in a layer of smog. Everyone seems to be wearing heavy duty masks to be safe. The parks are devoid of children running about. There are no cyclists on the streets for fear of inhaling the deadly air. An increasing number of children are falling sick. The fancy schools that have capital are building artificial domes that have purified air. What’s the reason for all this?

I am not an expert or much aware of anything related to China, save Chinese food,  and so my imagination and presumptions may not be accurate. I certainly agree that what’s happening in Beijing is nothing worse than an apocalypse, or rather as it has been labelled, an airpocalypse. The citizens are aware of what’s happening. The devastating changes to the architecture is the physical sign of the worsening foul air. The AQI of Beijing’s toxic environment hits 400 at times- Certainly not safe for any human being to treat with ignorance. The amount of carbon mission from factories is sky rocketing and the laws and measures implemented by the government is of little use if not futile.

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/dec/16/beijing-airpocalypse-city-almost-uninhabitable-pollution-china

That’s the link to the entire article.

My concern comes from the fact that Beijing is not the only city suffering from such hazardous conditions. The air quality in most of the Asian countries is getting worse as the the economies are booming and the demand from the industrial sector is increasing. Indian cities are a hazard themselves. The pathetic safety regulations in the public transport sectors account for maximum pollution. The degraded quality of air filters do nothing to completely burn the fuel and so the carbon emissions are ridiculously high. Certain areas of my city record an AQI of 230 even. These areas have always depressed me and I have refrained from venturing there. Luckily I live on the better half of the city and so the ample greenery helps in keeping the air clean and safe to breathe.

Europe has an amazing AQI, with almost all the countries sporting an AQI of less than 40. I visited UK back in 2012, and I still remember the blast of fresh air that filled my lungs as I exited the Heathrow Airport. I felt more alive than I had in 15 years of my life. The feeling is the same whenever I go for a trek into the mountains or any hilly, isolated rural area.

India and China are two countries that are going to play a major role in many sphere’s of this planet’s future. Both the countries have their own positives and negatives and these often seem to be vicious circles and inevitable paradoxes. It has been predicted that the increasing fuel prices by 2050 will compel us to reduce our dependency on petroleum and that we would look towards coal as an alternative. I daresay that it is not going improve this planet’s future prospects.

We need to slow down and think of what we are doing… This chase for progress and innovation and the fight for a better lifestyle is a paradox. Now I know why Tolstoy preferred a peasant life, and I know now what Tolkien was preaching through his works.

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