Once again, we find ourselves in the midst of an orgy of worries and pronouncements about how to raise the rate of economic growth.
And yet, from the Industrial Revolution down to the present, it’s that same growth—capitalist growth—that has robbed us of the ability to breathe clean air.
Consider the report filed by Anu Anand [ht: ja] on the effects of capitalist growth on the air in Delhi:
Saharan dust, traffic fumes and smog from Europe may be clogging up London’s air at present – and causing alarm in the newspapers – but in the world’s most polluted city London’s air would be considered unusually refreshing. That city is Delhi, the Indian capital, where air quality reports now make essential reading for anxious residents.
In London last week, the most dangerous particles – PM 2.5 – hit a high of 57 – that’s nearly six times recommended limits.
Here in Delhi, we can only dream of such clean air.
Our reading for these minute, carcinogenic particles, which penetrate the lungs, entering straight into the blood stream – is a staggering 215 – 21 times recommended limits. And that’s better than it’s been all winter.
Until a few weeks ago, PM 2.5 levels rarely dipped below 300, which some here have described as an “air-pocalypse”.
Like the rest of the world, those of us in Delhi believed for years that Beijing was the world’s most polluted city.
But last May, the World Health Organization announced that our own air is nearly twice as toxic.
The result, we’re told, is permanent lung damage, and 1.3 million deaths annually. That makes air pollution, after heart disease, India’s second biggest killer.
And yet, it’s only in the past two months as India’s newspapers and television stations have begun to report the situation in detail that we’ve been gripped, like many others, with a sense of acute panic.
It’s a little bit like being told you’re living next to an active volcano that might erupt at any moment.
The residents of Gustave Doré’s London would have easily recognized that environmental volcano.