Your Guide to World Environment Day 2019

Air Pollution
World Environment Day. June 5th, 2019. It’s the biggest global celebration of its kind. Every year, a new theme and hosting nation is announced. This year, the theme is Air Pollution, and all eyes will be on China to see how it pulls off its role as host. 

I’m going to be completely honest here – when I first heard that China was hosting World Environment Day I scoffed. I mean, how ironic that the country with the single biggest CO2 emissions would head up World Environment Day. And then I realised – maybe it’s just what they need. To get people and corporations thinking and educated about this worthy cause. Then, I did some digging. China, although having a terrifying amount of emissions, has a rapidly growing green energy sector and is emerging as a climate leader.  They own half the world’s electric vehicles and 99% of the world’s electric buses. By hosting World Environment Day, the Chinese Government will be able to showcase their innovation and commitment towards a greener world.

This last year has been another harsh one for our planet – more than 300 killed in monsoon flooding in India last August, tsunamis and earthquakes in Indonesia killed over 3,000, cyclones devastated Japan and the US, California was ravaged by wildfires, and of course we cannot forget the terrible drought that is still wreaking havoc in our own backyard, causing the death of thousands of animals and bringing hardship upon our farmers. Our own human impacts are worsening issues like global warming, deforestation, climate change and air pollution. 

The way I see it, we are in the midst of a perfect storm. Global awareness of air pollution is skyrocketing, with people beginning to make changes after realising that they can have a positive impact on the environment. There are a plethora of groups spreading awareness. Corporates are feeling the pressure and are making the effort to emphasise their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Now, we need our politicians to step up and hold up their end of the bargain. I think that I can speak on behalf of many Aussies who were disheartened about the beating taken by environmental issues in the recent election. If there was ever a time to stand up and make a difference, it’s now. And by now, I mean RIGHT now, before it’s too late. 

Worrying Statistics
Let’s talk a little more about the issue at hand. Air pollution. It’s one of the core environmental crises today. We are all aware of it- think about flying into Beijing and seeing the smog-covered city, or when you walk behind a bus and get caught in an onslaught of black smoke. Yet somehow, it is not at the forefront of our minds.

Did you know?
- More people die each year from air pollution than from car accidents. 
- Approximately 7 million people die each year from air pollution-related causes, with about 4 million of these deaths occurring in Asia.  
- Many of these deaths are attributable to indoor air pollution and could be in the form of asthma, bronchitis, lung disease, heart disease or other respiratory allergies.
- Air pollution costs the global economy $5 trillion each year in welfare costs.
- Ozone pollution on the ground is expected to reduce crop yields 26% by 2030. 

Some of the main reasons air pollution is such a chronic problem is because we are generating it as an ingrained part of our lifestyles. Key culprits are: 
- Households: Around 3 billion people worldwide depend on burning fuel for cooking, lighting or heating, which can have serious health impacts when burned indoors. Cleaning products and other chemicals like bug sprays also release toxic fumes into the air. Check out this article on which plants can help keep rising air pollution in your home at bay.
- Industry: In most countries, energy production is a leading cause of air pollution. Coal burning plants are a massive contributor to air pollution, as well as the problematic amount of energy consumed by industrial factories. 
- Transport: The transport industry accounts for approximately one quarter of energy-related CO2 emissions. This is driven primarily by private cars and the CO2 they emit. 
- Agriculture: There are two primary sources of air pollution from the agriculture industry: livestock, which produces massive amounts of methane and ammonia, and the burning of waste. Around 24% of all greenhouse gases produced globally are a result of agriculture, forestry and other land-production.
- Waste: This issue has come to the forefront of the public’s attention recently with China and India turning down our plastic waste for recycling. Around 40% of waste worldwide is openly burned, which releases toxic chemicals, carbon, furans and methane into the atmosphere. 

What can we do?
World Environment Day will call individuals, communities, industries and governments to action to protect out environment. It is a strong reminder to explore renewable energy sources and green technologies in order to improve air quality around the world. Above all else, World Environment Day urges people to do ‘something’ to care for our planet. That ‘something’ can be a small, single action, or it can be a campaign across an entire city. The day aims to promote environmental awareness and action in the form of events such as clean-up events, tree-planting initiatives, recycling drives, and social media campaigns.

To help reduce your individual contribution to air pollution, here’s a few things you can do: 
- DITCH THE AUTOMOBILE: Use public transport or car pool to work, or even better, walk or take your bike.
- EAT YOUR VEGGIES: Decrease your consumption of meat and dairy to slash your contribution to methane emissions. 
- SAVE ENERGY: Turn off lights and electronics when you’re not using them, swap to efficient lightbulbs, hot water systems and air conditioning units. 
- CLEAN GREEN: Ditch those toxic chemical cleaning products for natural alternatives. If you need a helping hand, check out my top cleaning tips for a non-toxic household
- REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE: You’ve heard it all before ladies and gents, but recycle your trash, compost your food scraps, and stop buying things you don’t need!

As humans, we are so lucky that we have the ability to shape our environment, allowing us the opportunity to change and evolve. For me, World Environment Day’s theme of Air Pollution really makes me consider how I can change my every day life to reduce the amount of air pollution I produce. I get it, as an individual we can’t change the world, but in totality, we sure can change a lot. 

Dara x

Dara HayesComment