A book of verse, some fresh air, some water?

Essentials of life: air and water and nourishment (and social and physical activity). Given today’s precarious environment Omar Khayyam would certainly not disagree – once we keep as personal his other two recommendations.

It was ironic that on the day of the commencement of COP21 in Paris, 30Nov, China would have issued a smog, health hazard, alert for its capital, Beijing. While that and the ensuing ‘red’ alert occupy the headlines, The Guardian fills in some more disquieting details. As bad as it is, Beijing is not so bad, which says how bad it is. Where is the world’s most polluted city? The constant is the likelihood of severe health problems (and range of costs to individual, family and society) to those continually exposed to such hazards. 

Every day, hundreds of millions of people step outside into an environment that has become unsafe for human survival. Outdoor air pollution kills 3.3 million people every year, mostly in cities; more than HIV, malaria and influenza combined.

With its narration and photos, The Guardian uses the China crisis to highlight a crisis that becomes cumulative – yesterday’s emissions do not disappear as today’s start.

Beijing’s ‘airpocalypse’: city shuts down amid three-day smog red alert

Across Beijing, thousands of other schools and nurseries were in a similar state of almost total shutdown after the city’s authorities announced a three-day state of emergency because of the pollution.

A look at the economics of the China smog crisis. China relies mainly on coal for its energy. It is more competitive (including labour costs) than most countries in many of its products. China’s production relies on a high-CO2 emitter, coal, as energy input. Thus, China’s exports of fairly low cost products are more expensive if variables such as health and the production diseconomy are factored in. In reality, China’s exports represent importing other countries’ pollution – had those countries produced the same goods. Its exports of such products represent an ‘importation’ of pollution from the product importing countries.

Of course, air pollution, like water pollution, is no respecter of national boundaries, and its contribution to rising water levels for low lying and small island states adds a further dimension to the challenge, locally and globally.

Into each life some rain must fall? On the other side of the globe, additional challenging environmental and social problems flow from drought (failed crops, loss of income, hunger, migration) as a result of or aggravated by El Niño. TeleSUR informs us, for example,

Drought uncovers 400-year-old church in Mexican reservoir (VIDEO)

Panama Drought Set to Continue as El Niño Rocks Central America

And no more obvious is the value of water to life’s precious demands – even as multinationals (MNCs) strive to ‘capture’ domestic water resources of so many countries.

It remains to be seen whether action will prevail at COP21, and an enforceable climate plan emerges. Or just the self-serving rhetoric.

Now, where is that jug of wine?

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