Category: Science

The Smog We Breathe

We’ve been asked many times why we aren’t going to certain countries. Sometimes it’s because of potential danger (e.g. Syria), sometimes it’s because of time and/or cost (e.g., Antarctica), sometimes because the timing doesn’t work out (e.g., Namibia) but sometimes it’s because of pollution. With the limited number of countries we’re able to actually visit in the short time we have, we must cut certain countries from our list of places we’d like to see… and I’d rather avoid getting sick from air pollution if we can.

One of the countries we recently added to our world trip was Nepal. It was partly a strategic trip to help shorten flight times between Singapore and Oman, but also because it simply felt like a beautiful culture I had wanted my kids to experience. Sadly, it appears that Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, might be in the “midst of a pollution crisis” as one blogger called it. A meta-review of journals in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, said that “short term exposures” to Kathmandu Valley’s air pollution “invite respiratory diseases and allergy.” There are countless videos on YouTube that describe how bad the pollution can get, from having constant black goock in your nose if you don’t wear a mask, to all your belongings constantly being grimy, to actually getting seriously ill.

New Road, Kathmandu, Nepal
(by S. Pakhrin)

But Kathmandu is actually not even among the worst offenders. According to this article in The Guardian, India has about half of the top 50 cities in terms of air pollution. The next country, China, has 8 cities on the list. My kids have the occasional snow days at school, but it appears many unfortunate kids in these countries have smog days.

Of course, if we’re being honest, we’d only be in any of those three countries (and their specific polluted cities) for a short time, right? How much would Kathmandu’s or New Delhi’s pollution affect us? Likely very little in the long term. But why bother having our kids suffer with the smog and dirt when there’s simply so much beauty elsewhere in the world? This real-time air pollution index and World Health Organization’s outdoor air quality database give a good indication of other places with amazing history, temples and nature that we could visit instead.

Smog Covering New Delhi, India
(by Jama Masjit)

Although the pollution above is mostly caused by cars and factories, we’ve been looking at carbon offsetting our travel (reading things like this blog entry from On The Luce). Carbon offsetting does mostly seem like a way to feel less guilty about your flights (since the flights are likely going to happen with or without you), but we don’t need to be doing this world trip while others might have to travel for work or family. There’s still a lot of research on this topic so expect another blog post or two in the future.

While I’m on the subject, I recommend NASA’s quiz on air pollution called The Air We Breathe.

How To Save Our Planet

Excellent short from WWF narrated by Sir David Attenborough (via Kottke)

(Definition of environmental justice – the fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens, the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Environmental justice is an important part of the struggle to improve and maintain a clean and healthful environment, especially for those who have traditionally lived, worked and played closest to the sources of pollution.)

There are so many new electric cars driving around Ottawa recently! I mean, hey, the provincial government cancelled a plan to plant 50 million trees and vaguely stated “something’s going on” when commenting on record flood levels in Ottawa but the citizens seem to be shifting towards action.

Dangers of Ocean Travel

We had seriously considered crossing the Pacific by ship but ended up changing our route. Man, am I sooo glad we did!

I was watching Youtube with the boy the other day and sat through the following while experiencing absolute terror.

Oh my heavens, rogue waves are bloody terrifying!

History of Global Living Conditions

A very interesting and must read article titled “The short history of global living conditions and why it matters that we know it” by Max Roser that answers the question, “All things considered, do you think the world is getting better or worse, or neither getting better nor worse?” by looking at the history of global living conditions.

On Light Pollution: The End of Darkness

A nice little video from the New Yorker on the effect of light pollution and its impact on star-gazing by the general public:

I’ve said it before, but visiting parts of the globe that have minimal light pollution is one of the things I am most excited about for our world trip plans.

Perseid Meteor Shower

2016 has lined up to be some of the best meteor shower viewing in the last twenty years! I am very excited about this because the kids and I are in a “green zone” in the Dark Map right now and should be able to see a great show.

The Dark Map looks like this. (It is a bit sad to see how much light pollution there is. Especially sad for all of the kids who live in urban centres and rarely get a chance to see the night sky.)

I am also looking forward to our trip around the world for star-gazing. Seeing the southern hemisphere constellations, maybe the northern or southern lights, the band of the Milky Way Galaxy, or just an incredible amount of stars when we are in a proper dark zone. So cool!

Perseids Meteor Shower – A Magical Night in Joshua Tree from Kai Gradert on Vimeo.

Perseids Meteor Shower – A Magical Night in Joshua Tree from Kai Gradert on Vimeo.

 

Vox also has a great link round-up, including NASA’s livefeed.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén