With the World Environment Day just around the corner, I can’t keep myself from thinking about how the world would be a better place without pollution: imagine the fresh air, clean water, and all. But from where I stand, that’s only wishful thinking – our reality is an environment chock-full of toxicity. People are breathing dirty air in small villages and megacities alike. Research shows that about 9 out of 10 people across the globe are exposed to air pollutants that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) air quality standards. WHO also estimates that 4.6 million people die annually from factors directly linked to air pollution. If these findings are anything to go by, then we are all facing a potentially grave situation.
But we’ve heard about air pollution one too many times that it has become part of our lives. We rarely talk about it, let alone think about the health risks it poses to the current and future generations. When the topic arises, all we do is point fingers for a few days (or weeks), and recoil to our normal lives – it’s like a vicious cycle, it goes on and on and on. But as Mahatma Gandhi once put it, you must be the change you wish to see in the world. It all starts with you and me.
This year, the World Health Organization makes it easier for everyone, everywhere to join the fight against air pollution. Their theme “Beat Air Pollution” calls individuals, enterprises, and communities to combat this global crisis.
A message from UNEP read, “We want to collaborate with the youth and our partners in education to take this message into community, classroom, and campus to raise awareness and take action around air pollution, which causes asthma, among other respiratory diseases in young people. We desire to break 2018’s record and get thousands of events planned by our education partners. We hope that the activations and materials will inspire you to prepare and join in.”
Bring in an expert: You can have an air pollution expert come in and talk about how it’s affecting the community. This doesn’t have to be a special event; just let them speak to the students at the assembly or during usual lectures.
Teach it: Have your professors and teachers teach the students on air quality and pollution. You can check out the World Environment Day website for a list of air quality lesson plans, lecture notes, and other resources.
Host a tree-planting:Host a tree planting day and have students come with seedlings for their plants. This is a great way to invest in biodiversity.
Implement a walk/bike day: Cars are known to pollute the air – so you may introduce a walk or bike to school day so that people leave their cars at home. You may also consider implementing no-car idling zones around your school.
Sounds like something you can do? Then go to the World Environment Day website, or click here to register your event so others can see what you are doing. Everyone who registers will receive a World Environment Day participating certificate.