I streamed an interesting radio show yesterday morning on Connecticut’s WNPR – Where We Live – hosted by John Dankosky. The topic: How Clean Is Our Air?
Here in the US, I thought I was far away from such issues of the air. Does America have an air pollution problem?
Having followed Dr. Angel Hsu’s work for quite some time now, I’ve been involved in more than a handful of conversations around air quality and measures like PM2.5. After a number of years living in China, last spring I was lucky to join the class she co-taught at Yale with Dr. Karen Seto, From Dongguan to Delhi: Urbanization and the Environment in China and India. It was my first chance to experience a first-hand comparison between Beijing and New Delhi.
Like many others, I was interested in the competitive conversation sparked back in January by this article around air quality between Beijing and New Delhi. The primary catalyst to this conversation, the 2014 version of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), uses measured approaches (indicators) to articulate how countries are doing across a range of issues.
Last week, team EPI wrote a post that appeared on Scientific American to further contribute to this conversation around the tale of two cities, China-India Smog Rivalry a Sign of Global Menace. The post is worth perusing, not only for the beautiful infographic that illustrates several data points in the discussion around Beijing and New Delhi air, but to share a new estimate that one in eight people in the world each year die as a result of air pollution exposure [this is according to a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO)].
But even more interesting? 3.87 billion people worldwide – almost half of the global population – live in areas that exceed the threshold deemed “safe” by the WHO.
Beyond the numbers there are stories of severe air pollution from places like Paris and Seoul. Apparently air pollution is not just a problem of the developing world, it’s everybody’s problem.
And then the conversation turned to a place even closer to home.
After almost a year back in America, this morning was the first time I heard a conversation around air pollution that did not cite China or elsewhere in Asia. Rather, the state with the most air pollution in the Northeast (Connecticut), aside from one last coal-guzzling energy plant, is influenced by pollution coming from the Midwest.
A conversation about air pollution in Connecticut was about the furthest thing from my mind before I listened to this show. And, for many of us, air pollution has probably felt far away for a long time – reserved mostly for places with factories abroad since leaving America many years ago.
It seems like countries like China and India have pressure from the media and citizens to make a change. While neighbors like South Korea have a strong interest in keeping their air clean. It will be a collective effort to make these improvements and for everyone to benefit.
What about America? How are folks in America working between States and other international boundaries to keep its skies clean, clear, and under control?