Air pollution has been a problem in New York City since the metropolis first became industrialized. The increasing population and subsequent increase in factory production and car usage have only increased the concentration of pollutants in the air, including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide emissions, sulfur dioxide and other fine particulate matter. In turn, these pollutants harm the city’s inhabitants by causing a slew of medical problems such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Hundreds of New Yorkers fall victim to the effects of air pollution every single year.
And this is just in one major U.S. city – other big cities like Chicago and Los Angeles have just as much air pollution, if not more, and their citizens are just as susceptible to the illnesses that are exacerbated or caused by pollutants.
If a country like the United States has these problems, it is hard to imagine what people in underdeveloped countries are forced to breathe in. The United States, at least, has some non-governmental organizations trying to mitigate and minimize the harmful substances in the air.
The problem in other countries is two-fold: one, that they do not have the money to do anything about it, and two, that they are not informed about the consequences of developing factories that emit harmful toxins.
Helena Norberg-Hodge, a critic of economic globalization, once reported on a Tibetan man proudly telling her about his vegetables being better than the local ones because they have seven different chemicals on them.
Air in different regions across the world may have differing levels of pollutants, but that does not mean that air pollution in different parts of the world does not affect everyone. All people live under the same ozone layer, which is quickly decaying. Everyone is breathing in toxins, but the human race deserves better than that. It is up to governments to enforce clean air regulations and restrictions.
The city has been trying to help mitigate the effects of air pollution through a series of initiatives that phase out harmful heating oils, such as No. 4 and No. 6, that cause high-sulfur emissions and replacing them with No. 2 oil which has lower emissions.
Other initiatives include making the state’s municipal fleet more green and proposing car inspection laws that make sure vehicles are creating the least amount of pollution possible. This is something that has been reinforced with the Clean Air Act and PlaNYC.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s investigations successfully led to Volkswagen pleading guilty in January to its emissions-cheating scandal and violation of the Clean Air Act. The company still faces criminal investigations in 42 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.
There are also other solutions that we can turn to that are being utilized by other cities around the world. These include using more greenspaces such as green billboards, roofs and vertical vegetation which can come about through more efficient city planning.
In the end, it all comes back to the individuals. Humans have taken so much from the earth and they need to start giving back and protecting it. This means choosing cleaner transportation options and lobbying for updating the city’s bike lanes, pedestrian walkways and public transit systems. It also means that those lucky enough to live in developed nations have the responsibility of helping the people who do not get the clean air and quality of life that every person deserves.