Post Mortem

Beating Air Pollution

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 6/4/2019 12:39:32 PM IST

 The air that we breath every moment for our survival is a free gift of nature. The natural air was fresh, clean and pure. However, air has now become polluted due to continuous emission of pollutants into the atmosphere over the years of human civilization. Access to clean air has now become a luxury and every year around 7 million people die prematurely due to air pollution worldwide, majority of which is in Asia. Study shows that 9 out of 10 people worldwide are exposed to levels of air pollutants that exceeds safe limits sets by the WHO. According to UN report, air pollution costs the global economy a staggering $5 trillion annually on welfare cost. 

The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are on the rise, and this year it has set a new record of 415 parts per million (PPM). The high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is caused primarily by burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, prevents the earth’s natural cooling process from working. The overabundance of greenhouse gases traps more heat from the sunlight leading to increase in surface temperature, or what we commonly called as global warming. A rise in global temperatures would increase the occurrence of extreme weather events including floods, cyclones, droughts and heatwaves. Crops yield would fall and wild fires would become more frequent. Millions of species unable to adapt with the changing climatic conditions would vanish. Such a future is terrifying but inevitable, unless we change and choose to act for the planet.

World environment day is an important event to raise these issues of climate change, global warming and pollutions. Every year we are witnessing higher level of response with greater zeal and enthusiasm from individuals, groups, institutions and governments. The responses are encouraging as it demonstrates the unique ability of humans to react to a given circumstances and look for solutions. Nagaland is no exception. Many individuals and groups would be joining the global community in our common quest to recreate a clean, healthy and livable environment. The more the merrier. Whether it is about planting a tree or cleaning a trash, saving paper and energy or refusing/reducing plastic use, every action counts.

Recently, a global youth climate movement was sparked when 16-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, began skipping school to picket Sweden’s parliament, demanding tougher policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since then, her actions have rippled throughout the world, with students striking in solidarity with Thunberg. The striking students are demanding for “more aggressive targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to keep warming in check, with budgets and legal force to back them”. In Australia, students are demanding that the government end all new mining and power the country with 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. Thunberg insist that she will continue to strike until Sweden is aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In 2014, Malala Yousafzai, another teenager, was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Like Malala, Thunberg is already nominated for the Nobel prize for her climate advocacy. Whether she won the Nobel or not, such firm and resolute actions that we see from these millennials are unprecedented and sends strong signals to the governments and authorities to take the voice of the youth more seriously. Afterall, the future that we all are looking forward is the future of today’s youths. And as native proverb says, “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”.

In every society, teachers play an important role in shaping the outlook and attitude of the students. Apart from their academic duties, many teachers walk the extra mile to educate the students on the important issues of environment and climate change and thereby creating an informed citizenry driven by science and rationality. Many teachers find meaningful ways to communicate to their students in a way no other person can do. For this they deserve respect and appreciation. Environmental science and education have been introduced in our school and college curriculums, however, most of the schools and colleges, both public and private, are running without such teachers. This needs urgent attention from the government as well as private educational providers. 

Progress takes place when we start owning our responsibilities and take decisive actions. Decisive action on climate front, however, is clearly lacking in both national and international levels. Uncertainty is looming over the Paris agreement following the withdrawal of the Trump’s administration. Major polluting economies are non-committal to a legally binding agreement. Developing nations like China and India are reluctant to invest their resources in reducing emission, even though both countries face the highest burden of death from air pollution and environmental degradation. Developing countries blames the developed economies for the present crisis and harps on their right to develop (and thereby pollute) their economies. The challenge is therefore to create a win-win solution for both the developed and developing countries where everybody and the planet benefits.

The current levels of air pollution in India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh are overwhelmingly high and lethal. Among the top 30 polluted cities in the world, 22 cities are located in India. Reducing emission for countries like India is a huge challenge as the country is combating hunger and malnutrition, high rate of unemployment and low income. To tackle these issues India has adopted multi-pronged strategy including universal education, skill development, employment support schemes and robust economic growth. Though progress has been made, much has to be done. Learning from the past, we must choose a different path of growth to alleviate the living standard of the people and also to rescue them from the harmful impacts of environmental pollution and degradation. The levels of pollution and destruction caused by fossil fuel-based economy gives a clear indication that it is no longer a viable option. 

Government should therefore, make sincere efforts to divest coal to contain pollution and invest in renewable resources, public transport system and enforce stringent pollution laws. Citizens may also seek creative ways to reduce our carbon footprints by using public transport or carpool whenever possible, consume locally available products and resources, reduce the use of firewood, prevent forest fires, conserve energy and reduce trash. Such actions from individuals and governments would certainly contribute towards enhancing our personal and societal welfare as well as restore planetary health and balance.

Dr. N Janbemo Humtsoe, 

Green Foundation, Wokha

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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