No more blue sky days

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Kathmandu, a city on top of the mountain overlooking the glorious Himalayan range and dressed in colorful ornaments as if each day is a festivity, is now fast becoming Asia’s most polluted city. The city drowns in haze and soft fog as construction sites are being built, and waste management systems aren’t in place to accommodate the rising number of residents. Surrounded by world’s highest mountains, it’s quite a saddening sight to see residents covering their face as they walk in their own supposedly lush hometown.

In India, The Taj Mahal is turning green. Delhi is long known to be one of the world’s most polluted cities for years, and pictures of a jam-packed street with soft haze gathering low in the air is a quite popular image of this treasured city. Year after year, India is climbing the chart as one of the most populated country. And generally, cities and countries that produce most of our products are the ones that deprived of breathable air.

Think: “Made in China.”

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Once, I met someone who grew up in one of the biggest industrial city in China, Shenzhen; a city roughly the size of London.With the city jam-packed with industrial plants that supply 90% of the world’s gadgets, this young woman admitted to me that she had never seen blue sky in her city.

Pollution doesn’t just happen in industrial cities. Take it to any cities that have more buildings than greens, and it's likely to be highly polluted as well. Or, if it’s more convenient for you to drive around in the city with cars than to take bicycle or walk around, it’s likely that the gas emission produced from engines makes the air toxic. Just late last year, London saw another spike in nitrogen dioxide level that impacts lungs capacities and can make them smaller, especially in children.

Toxic air is so high everywhere that I begin to think it’s wise to wear filtration mask in our daily lives. It’s crazy, I know. People would think it’s you who are sick, when it is the city who is sick. But for the sake of our lungs, skin, and peace of mind, I encourage you to wear one, not just when you’re facing a jam-packed street, but when you’re travelling in any cities by feet.

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I’m not here to frighten you, but this should really make us pause and ponder: what had we done that pulled the world downward to this catastrophe? We might not know how much damage we did to the other side of the world. We weren’t taught this in school. We are used to keep going in our daily lives with the glasses we do, the clothes we wear, etc, etc. But our convenience comes at a cost; a disaster that has taken so many lives; 400,000 lives every year just in Europe to be exact.

Pollution isn’t just the result of gas emission, rapid industrialization, burning plastic, among many others, but also a fast-paced lifestyle, mindless consumerism, and globalization.

Let’s reflect: have you ever asked yourselves where your items come from? Imagine the early beginnings of your clothes: workers lines up a production line, carefully ensuring the quality to its tiniest details and sorting out the pieces for a world-wide distribution. Mass production and industrialization are the keys to affordable prices, and also marking the onset of climate change. It is here that ripples are turning into big waves of catastrophe.

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Now that people are becoming more aware of the consequences of their purchasing habits, a new cycle is created; one that is smaller and more local, but much more sustainable and kind to the earth, ourselves, and the future. At a time when we’re surrounded by opportunities to make Earth a better home, we should be drawing ourselves closer to the sources, opening our ears and hearts to their realities, and making creative efforts to make the entire production process easy on labors and their well-beings. When we begin to appreciate the long process that is mostly invisible to us, we will grow stronger appreciation towards the items and hopefully, we will grow a healthier purchasing habit, as well.

We might not be the politician who change nation-wide regulations or own an empire that controls commodities around the world, but we are the consumers. We make impact by knowing what to demand. And we can demand products that are kinder to Earth at all levels. But first, before rummaging the streets with signs to stop fossil-fuel industries, simply be a wise and mindful consumer. Select carefully what you want to purchase, then make real efforts to take care of them at all costs.


Ilse Bos