Earth Friendly: Take care of the air we share

By Kate Garcia
June 5, 2014 at 1:05 a.m.

Seven million.

No, that's not what the Texas lottery is up to nor is it the amount of inheritance your Great Aunt Harriet left you in her will. Believe it or not, that is the number of air pollution-related deaths in 2012 worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

There are four things every human needs to survive: food, shelter, water and air. Take away any one of these four elements of life, and death comes knocking much faster than expected.

If you believe that statement to be untrue, then answer these questions:

Would you drink old rainwater from a ditch that sat stagnant for two weeks?

Would you eat a hamburger with a half-cooked patty and mayonnaise that had spoiled for a week?

Would you set up a tent knowing that area was infested with ticks?

There is one common danger that would keep most of us from doing these things. That common danger is sickness with a high risk of death.

Of all deaths reported by the World Health Organization to be directly linked with outdoor air pollution, 40 percent were ischemic heart disease cases, 40 percent were stroke cases, 11 percent were chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases, 6 percent were lung cancer cases and 3 percent were acute lower respiratory infections in children.

So, I ask now, are we so content with breathing in polluted air that has been proven by scientists to kill you?

There are extents we go through to keep our water, food and shelter as clean as we can to prevent illness, possibly even death. But, oftentimes, air is forgotten about. It is a thing that is not tangible, not something we can put our hands on and manipulate as easily as food, water or shelter.

Yet air is something that affects you, me and every other living thing on this planet. We may not eat the same food, live in the same kind of house or even drink from the same water source, but my air is your air. We all share it - good and bad.

While you can't always see it, the dangerous chemicals created by processes like combustion of gasoline from automobile engines are causing illnesses and even death - 7 million of them to put a number to it.

Now, do you want to tell me that you don't give an (expletive) about the air? And yes, someone did actually tell me to my face they don't give a blankety-blank whether the air is clean or dirty or not, and they don't drive that much anyway. Well, to that I say, "what about your neighbor? What about all the ozone from Houston that travels into Victoria?"

We don't suggest mowing after 5 p.m., carpooling, stopping at the click when refueling, etc., because they make cute commercials. It takes more than one person to make a world of change.

There is one person that's fresh on my mind that believed in the abilities of the human spirit to laugh in the face of diversity and challenge.

"Nothing will work unless you do," Maya Angelou said.

As she challenged us, so I challenge you. Be the change.

Kate Garcia is the programs coordinator for the city of Victoria, Environmental Services.



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