As smog envelops Paris and other big cities we should view pollution as a crime against humanity

Air pollution is deteriorating in many places around the world. In Shanghai, such is the oppressive smog, covering the city with a toxic cloud, that authorities have had to instal gigantic TV screens to broadcast the sunrise. Paris has experienced some of its worst air pollution in recent days, while in the EU as a whole, even at permitted concentrations, industrial and traffic—related pollution is harming cardiovascular health.

Is clean air, along with drinkable water, becoming one of the most precious resources on the planet? Or should we reframe the question and challenge the thinking that converts everything, including the very air we breathe, into economically measurable reserves and commodities? The fact that public parks become crowded as soon as the sun shines proves that people long to breathe in green, open spaces. And, in these surroundings, they are generally both peaceful and peaceable. It is rare to see people fighting in a garden. If human beings can breathe and share air, they don’t need to struggle with one another. And consequently, it appears to be a basic crime against humanity to contribute to air pollution.

Unfortunately, politicians, despite proposing curbs on pollution, they have not yet called for it to be made a crime. Wealthy countries are allowed to pollute if they pay for it.

We must oppose pollution that destroys both our world and that of plants. The interdependence to which we must pay the closest attention is that between ourselves and the vegetal world. Often described as “the lungs of the planet”, the woods that cover the earth offer us the gift of breathable air by releasing oxygen. As we know, rapid deforestation combined with the massive burning of fossil fuels, is an explosive recipe for an irreversible disaster.

Perhaps then we would finally begin to live, rather than being concerned with bare survival. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2014

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