The air we breathe

Dear President Biden,

Diesel fuel fumes are wafting through the front windows from the huge dump truck that’s dumping a ginormous pile of gravel, dirt, or asphalt (not sure which this morning) in front of our house. It’s also incredibly loud when the trucks are getting in gear and drivers have to floor it to get the whole shebang moving. So, so loud.

Yes, I could close the windows to somewhat safeguard against the fumes (not so much the noise), having the windows open lets in the cool breezes and birdsong and I’m tired of doing the hop up/down to close/open the windows. This morning it’s a trade-off I’ve been willing to accept since there’s only been the one nasty, revving diesel truck (so far). Some mornings, though, it’s truck after truck after truck and then the windows do indeed get firmly shut.

About a year ago we got an air purifier and given what the filters look like after not too long and the silt that still collects on the window sills, I shudder to think what all we’re breathing in and how much worse it would be if we didn’t have the air purifier. And, I don’t pause often enough or long enough to think about how fortunate we are that we can afford the air purifier (and to run it, which of course is more electricity….). That said, I mostly also don’t pause very often or very long to think about how messed up it is that any of us need an air purifier. It’s just a given. It’s the air we breathe. It’s the messed up air we breathe – we just breathe it because that’s what we’ve got to breathe.

That huge, little circular could go on forever, couldn’t it? We breathe the air we have to breathe because that’s all we have to breathe and we have to breathe. And we will breathe it even if it’s killing us, which it does – many, many of us. Globally, 7 to 9 million of us die every year because of air pollution. Whichever estimate we go with, these air pollution deaths far exceeds the global death toll thus far from COVID-19 and they happen every, single year. Sadly, given that we’ve already accommodated to spewing diesel trucks in front of our homes and insanely high annual air pollution death tolls, all of this is likely to get much, much worse as global warming escalates.

When I started this morning’s letter, it was with the intention of telling you about a cool new podcast that I’ve started listening to that’s called How To Save A Planet with co-hosts marine biologist Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and journalist Alex Bloomberg. I’ve not yet heard them talk about air pollution but yesterday I listened to one episode on wildfires and another on farming and carbon capture in soil, both of which were absolutely fantastic. Not only do the hosts focus on practical (to include policy) solutions, but they do a great job of breaking down the science around the issues/problems and of providing historical context for those issues/problems through a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens. I hope you’ll carve out a little time to give it a listen.

May we be safe to breathe the air we have to breathe.
May we be willing to prioritize basic clean air and water standards for the entire globe.
May we stop with the whining about how hard this stuff is and get moving on solutions.
May we accept that a lot of things that are hard to do are very necessary to do.

Tracy Simpson

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