Air Pollution Emergency

"For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth. " Sanskrit proverb.

Walking home the other night up a busy main road in the town, I met a chap who told me that he had lived on that road for all of his 72 years. He now suffers from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease); an incurable & debilitating condition caused by air pollution from traffic. Causing more than 7 million premature deaths per year worldwide (Source: World Health Organisation), air pollution is also thought to be responsible for causing Asthma, Lung Cancer, Leukemia, Pneumonia, Birth defects, Immune system defects, Autism, Cardio-vascular diseases and Dementia; all on the increase. A recent scientific study also concluded that air pollution causes a "huge reduction in intelligence" (Source), increased mental illness in children and extremely high mortality in those suffering from mental disorders. Considering that 95% of the global population breathes unsafe air, including the UK, surely this is a matter deserving of immediate concern?

Road transport is a blight on our society. Emmissions from the internal combustion engine are a major contributor to climate change. Arguments over car parking are a major cause of disputes between neighbours. The noise is relentless, incidents of road rage increasing and threats to the well-being of pedestrians, cyclists and children endemic. The ability to walk into the hills and enjoy far-reaching views is a thing of the past, as a blue-grey toxic haze is now visible almost everywhere. Cumulative changes to the way we work, shop and use leisure time mean that we are ever more dependent on the car, while simultaneously destroying the vitality of traditional town centres. Any indications that car production might be on the wane are immediately greeted by the media with barely concealed panic, such is the extent to which motor transport is entwined with our global economic system, and hence assumed well-being. Society as a whole clings with desperation to the assumed doctrine that we can´t manage without it, even though we know that it is killing us. It´s not too far fetched to describe this as madness.

Air pollution is the external visible appearance of an interrelated web of mutually reinforcing obstacles to change for the better. Like the mythical image of the hydra, cut off one head of the problem and another immediately grows in its place. The only real solution is total systemic change to our collective lifestyle, which the existing political-economic establishment is both unable and unwilling to carry out. A new model or story of how we are organised as a society is therefore needed, which puts human & environmental well-being at the centre of things. Is there any other option?

Change Agents

Client Earth

Environmental Lawyers. With the planet in peril, we believe the law is one of the most effective tools we have in the battle to save civilisation.

Global EcoVillage Network

Citizen and community participation in local decision-making, influencing policy-makers to accelerate the transition to sustainable living.