This is what hazardous air pollution sounds like.
My N95 mask slips a bit from my face, and a rush of tangy sulfur hits my nostrils, making me want to gag.
This is what hazardous air pollution smells like.
We can't see beyond the buildings nearest to us as we drive to school this morning. I'm sure the highways between Tianjin and Beijing have been shut down due to limited visibility.
This is what hazardous air pollution looks like.
And what does all this air pollution do to your health? Especially to those who don't wear masks and run indoor air filters like we do? Well, there's plenty of research you can read if you want details, but you don't need to spend hours scaring yourself to realize that it's not good.
This morning, Matt was listening to NPR as he usually does while we get ready for work. I normally don't listen because I'm too groggy in the morning, but today, my ears perked up when I heard an interview about the Paris climate talks. In the interview, Jennifer Morgan, the global director of the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute, said that by the middle of the century, in 35 years, we need to be at 0 for carbon emissions. The interviewer said, "That just sounds impossible. . . . We're talking about cars, airplanes, home heating, moving things all over the word, basically everything that humans do. No emissions, within 35 years." Her reply - "Yeah, it's interesting. It is possible. The scientific, technical studies show it's possible. It's really about the politics."
This echoes what I've read elsewhere about curbing emissions and switching to clean energy. It is possible [but not easy]. It is essential [but not cheap]. So, we continue to do what is easy and cheap. It's too politically and financially inconvenient to acknowledge climate change [Republican party line]. Even when climate change is acknowledged, it's still too politically and financially inconvenient to actually do anything meaningful about it [Democrat party line]. We know it's killing us, but we can't seem to stop.
It brings to mind two things for me - the first in Proverbs 26:11, "As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly." The second in Romans 7:18b-20, "For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."
What makes me most angry about all of this is the large number of professing believers who deny climate change and think that unlimited carbon emissions is no big deal. It's popular to view sin in a more personal way - my anger, my lust, my impatience. These sort of things are sin - not my participation in a global system of misuse and abuse.
Meanwhile, hazardous air pollution changes to beyond hazardous. Extreme weather gets more extreme. Sea levels rise. Species die. Do we really think the global ecosystem can sustain our consumption? That our greed and taking the easy way out are not sin?
Sometimes people ask me why I'm willingly living in a country that has such poor air quality. Is it really worth it? My usual answer is that I love being here enough that I am willing to put up with and try to manage the air pollution (and other forms of pollution that may not be as prominent).
However, today, I am also grateful that I live here, where I can't just pretend that carbon emissions and other greenhouse emissions are having little to no impact. I don't have that luxury [danger]. I can see, taste, and hear what emissions are doing to the planet, and I'm literally sick of it.
#COP21 - it's time for real change.