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Air Pollution

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Air Pollution

Post  MBAstudent on Mon Jan 25, 2010 3:01 am

(name, title) Executive Summary An evaluation of the implications of environmental air pollution on human life and the macro, meso and micro level steps being taken to change the current status of air pollution is the purpose of this site. The method of analysis used involved researching the actual hazards of air pollution on humans, what solutions government agencies have proposed/implemented (macro), what steps cities across the United States have taken (meso) and how you (micro) can take a “step toward” solving the air pollution problem. The conclusion I have drawn from this research is that with the abundance of evidence supporting the idea that air pollution has become a serious problem, our society (individuals and businesses together) needs to adopt a holistic pro-active stance against air pollution. (picture and quote) Introduction In order to maintain a concise, yet informative evaluation of my research, I have categorized my findings in to four parts: Part 1: The effect of air pollution on human health. Part 2: Actions taken at the macro level. Part 3: Actions taken at the meso level. Part 4: Actions to take at the micro level. I will discuss each part listed above and I will argue for a more holistic, pro- active and more connected approach to tackling the problem of air pollution. My final thoughts will probe you to think about the role you do play in our society’s future and ask you to act on incorporating new thoughts. Part 1: The effect of air pollution on human health. Garrett’s quote above is from an eye opening book about the “Human Factor” and emerging infectious diseases. Although the book describes exotic places like the Amazon jungle and Saharan Africa, an often overlooked place for emerging illnesses is right where the majority of humans live ... the city. The city is the center for modern life as we know it. Yet, the city is also becoming a center for death and illness. Air pollution is a popular environmental problem that people rally around. As a society, what are we actually doing to solve this problem and help prevent an epidemic that is quietly arising out of the inner city? The disease that is becoming a quiet killer in the inner city is asthma. Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that causes tightening of the chest and difficulty breathing. Asthma has no single cause, but episodes can be brought on by a variety of factors working alone or in combination. Environmental epidemiologists are currently studying the most recent outbreaks of this disease and why inner city children are suffering most from this illness. According to the American Lung Association, asthma afflicts over 15 million Americans. The frightening aspect of this statistic is that the largest group of people represented by this number is children. The United States has an overall asthma rate of about 5 percent. However, the rate in New York City is 8.4 percent and it can reach 25 percent among children in the poorest urban neighborhoods. (statistic, picture) Air pollutants such as ozone, diesel fumes and exhaust particles seem to be the main source of the problem. Hospital admissions for asthma often rise to 20 - 30 percent during periods of severe air pollution. Clearly, it is not illegal to be admitted to the hospital, but it seems only humane that air pollution caused by human acts (i.e. driving cars) making people sick enough to have to go to the hospital should be illegal. Clearly then, there is a correlation between human acts of convenience and causing human illness. The question we must ask now is: If asthma is a disease of civilization, what aspects of modern life can we change to help our fellow humans? Part 2: Actions taken at the macro level. For the purpose of this site, the macro level is defined as an entity larger than a business and more powerful than the city in which the business presides. The discussion that follows then, is an example of an effort made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to “clean our air” and human reactions to the EPA’s efforts. In July of 1997, the EPA issued new clean air rules designed to cut levels of smog and soot in the air. Ever since the rules were proposed back in November 1996, the agency has come under attack. Critics, mainly from industry, said the rules could impose serious burdens on American consumers. Those critics claim that consumers will likely have to change their lifestyles if the areas they live in are to meet the tougher new air quality standards. At this point, I would like to propose a question: How will steps in the right direction (EPA setting new standards that will benefit society) be effective unless lifestyle changes are made? This is a perfect example of the Present Industrial Paradigm and the idea of Reductionism. The ethnic group most affected by the asthma epidemic is African- Americans. The inner cities of some of the largest metropolitan areas are predominantly African-American. Proper health care and the ability to afford such health care is a reason that children are dying of asthma. Ironically, at a news conference at the National Press Club in June 1997, leaders representing all minority groups said that they have told Clinton Administration officials in meetings that the EPA’s proposals to further control smog and fine particles will be so costly to implement, that billions of dollars now headed for investment in small business in America’s inner cities will be choked off. What then, is the price of human health and why do the people most affected by air pollution want to put off efforts to help correct the problem? Part 3: Actions taken at the meso level. The meso level, as discussed in this site, refers to that entity which is not as big as the EPA, but yet still holds more power than the individual. The business, as Paul Hawken suggests, “...has great power, perhaps more power than any other institution.” The discussion that follows examines the steps some meso entities have taken to set an example for the improvement of our air. The city of St. Louis, Missouri, has been challenging the problem of air pollution since 1995. The people of the metropolitan area of St. Louis started a government sponsored program aimed at cutting traffic pollution in that year. The program, called RideFinders, includes private car pools and federally sponsored vans. To date, the program has a registered enrollment of 2,000 people. Most metropolitan cities have mass transit (i.e. city buses) already in place, but RideFinders is taking it one step further. Those enrolled are doing it not because they have no other alternative for transportation, but of their own free will. Although no significant change in air pollution has been detected in St. Louis yet, the program is a great example of people thinking beyond their own convenience and about others around them. (picture) Many businesses offer incentive programs for “carpooling” to work. Even though this could be construed as bribing people to “do the right thing,” sometimes (especially in cases where results are not immediately able to be seen) people need incentive they can hold in their hands (i.e. monetary or even gift certificates). With incentives, a sense of awareness that there is an issue and even employee camaraderie can help to foster a positive program. As a result, employees and businesses can take pride in the fact that they are taking responsibility for the world around them. The step from doing something (like car-pooling) for an incentive and then doing it for a sense of pride can be paralleled to Carol Gilligan’s Pre-Conventional Stage moving to the Conventional Stage in her description of Stages of Moral Development. Part 4: Actions to be taken at the micro level. For the purpose of this document, the micro level should be understood as the individual. The individual includes every member of society. With the Present Industrial Paradigm that is so evident in our society today, the ‘individual’ is a simple concept to comprehend. Our society, myself included, is unconnected. For example, after four years without my own automobile, when I see people waiting for the bus now that I have car, I am glad I am not one of them. I embrace my freedom and independence and do not want to have to be without it again. The question I ask myself is this: Do I embrace my freedom (having a car now) because when I didn’t have a vehicle, all my friends had vehicles and I didn’t? Or, because I had to depend on others and that made me feel like lesser of a person? It is an interesting question because I wonder what would have happened if all my friends had to take the bus too. The oddity lies in the fact that when I took the bus, I did not hate it. I was just fulfilling my basic needs; go to work, go to school, go to the store, etc. I took the bus when I didn’t want to have to depend on someone else for a ride home. It made me feel independent. Now that I have my own vehicle though, I feel even more independent - and I like it. Once again, this is the Reductionism mind-set. So, how do we change our way of thinking? Here is my thought proposal: We are all individuals, but what makes us all individuals is our differences from every other individual in our society. I know I care about others around me, but am I willing to give up my freedom/independence for people I don’t even know? Probably not. However, I can start thinking beyond myself. I can think long-term. If I know now (and I do) that children are suffering from a disease caused by my need to feel independent and free, it is uncomfortable for me because I hope to have children some day. I certainly would not want my children to get sick from breathing! This is what Laura Nash called, “thinking long-term.” Some may ask: What is the difference of one person? It is not going to help if I am the only one making an effort. (picture of the kiddies) I agree, the individual standing alone seems somewhat powerless - especially when trying to tackle something as awesome as the contaminated air we breathe. What the individual should try to remember is that society would not be society without each member in it. Therefore, as individuals, and human beings, it is imperative to start thinking of the self/individual as part of a whole. This is the basis for the Holistic Paradigm. It is grasping and practicing the concept that we are NOT alone. It is trying to understand that our actions today will have an effect tomorrow. Conclusion: Air pollution has become a serious health hazard to our society. People are having to be admitted to hospitals because of our dirty air. A major contribution to the dirty air is society’s love for independence and convenience. Would we be able to tell our children’s great-great grandchildren that their air is bad because we didn’t feel like waiting for the bus or sharing a ride? Fortunately, actions are being taken at the macro and meso levels as I discussed earlier. It is up to the individual at the micro level to remember that what makes them an individual is everyone else around them. If we want to preserve our independence, let’s care for our neighbors and their children’s children. Final Thoughts: 1. Would you be willing to share a ride to work every day with a co- worker? Would you want an incentive? 2. Does the company you work for do any thing to help environmental issues? If not, how would they feel about you creating an awareness program? 3. Do you do anything to help environmental issues? Do you think you do enough?

Bibliography

: Books Editors of Time. The Medical Advisor: The complete guide to alternative and conventional treatments. Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia. 1996. pp. 148, 149. Garrett, Laurie. The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a world out of Balance. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. 1994. Journals “Drive Time Car Pools a ‘Growth Industry’ Here” Schlinkmann, Mark. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. December 29, 1995. pp. 01B. “Gasping for Life” Podolsky, Doug. U.S. News & World Report. January 13, 1997. pp. 61-65. “New Air pollution rules smother inner cities” Chicago Independent Bulletin. Stamford, CT. June 19, 1997. pp. PG. “Road Warrior Fog-Bound Over Clean Air” Horvath, Adam Z. Newsday. April 1994. pp. 6. “U.S. says asthma cases up 75 percent since 1980” Cooper, Mike. Reuters. April 23, 1998. “Why Ebonie Can’t Breath” Cowley, Geoffrey and Underwood, Anne. Newsweek. May 26, 1997. pp. 58-64.

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