Air, Water, and Sunlight – A luxury for many people.
When I first decided to write an article on how Air, Water, and Sunlight have become a luxury, I thought it would be tough. I had a feeling that it is quite an early stage to write such an article. As it seems the issue concerns decidedly fewer people.
To take stock of the issue, I tried to search: “Has water become a luxury?” on the web. To my astonishment, I was overwhelmed with the results related to this query. It became apparent that this issue is neither small nor a fancy one. The problem is widespread and touches many lives, but a few realize.
Today we are extracting almost everything, even pure water and air from nature.
Let me put a statement: “Gold, coal, petrol, water, and air are extracted through a specific process to make them fit for use”. Yes, it is true that today all of these are first extracted and then consumed. For decades we have been using the ‘refining‘ process to extract pure oil from petroleum. We are using the ‘extraction’ process to get iron from the iron ore. Similarly, ‘smelting’ process to extract pure gold from gold ore. Now we are doing the similar things to extract pure water and air from nature. We are using ‘purification’ to purify the air and ‘filtration’ to extract the pure water from the contaminated water.
Traditionally, a luxury denotes something that is enjoyed by certain people and not by others. It speaks of the privilege and exclusivity enjoyed by an elite. Today the privileged people are enjoying purified air and water, while the underprivileged are forced to consume raw. Only a few people can afford to buy the micro-factories. The micro-factories in the form of purifiers and filters to process the raw material like air and water to produce the pure ones. The commercialization of air purifiers and water filters is a booming industry now. An industry whose products are unattainable to many. That is the reason I say, water and air has become a luxury.
Air pollution has become the 4th highest cause of death among all health risks
Not many people would have heard of the Beijing Cough, but the name is in common use among foreign visitors to the Beijing city. You get a cough when you arrive, and it clears up when you leave. Air pollution has effects as small as burning eyes and itchy throat to as large as breathing problems and death. Inhaling polluted air takes away at least 1-2 years of a typical human life. It is estimated that 750,000 people die in China prematurely due to air pollution.
The air pollution in Delhi could get worse than that of Beijing. The pollution could go so high that breathing is like smoking 50 cigarettes a day. On November 8, 2017, pollution surged to a level that some monitoring stations reported an Air Quality Index of 999, way above the upper limit of the worst category, Hazardous. Air pollution in India is estimated to cause 527, 700 deaths every year.
According to research from the World Health Organization, more than nine out of 10 of the world’s population – 95% – lives in places where air pollution exceeds safe limits. Total air pollution was responsible for 6.1 million deaths in 2016; with ambient (outdoor) air pollution is the most significant contributor. It means air pollution has become the 4th highest cause of death among all health risks, exceeded only by high blood pressure, diet, and smoking. The most affected due to air pollution are the poor who are working outdoors. It is a luxury they cannot afford like the other luxuries enjoyed by the privileged people.
Our planet’s lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater are often a chemical cocktail.
As the technology improves, scientists are able to detect more pollutants, and at smaller concentrations, in Earth’s freshwater bodies. These water bodies are found to contain the traces of contaminants ranging from birth control pills and sunscreen to pesticides and petroleum. Our planet’s lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater are often a chemical cocktail. It is a biggest issue of the current civilization as how to clean the already contaminated water bodies. People are forced to consume these polluted water.
To take stock of the harmful effects of Water pollution, note that one of the pollutants of water is methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE). MTBE was formerly used as an air-cleaning gas additive. Although it is now a banned chemical, it will take years before MBTE is thoroughly removed from contaminated water systems. Water contaminated with this organic chemical can cause leukemia, lymphoma, and tumors in the testicles, thyroid glands, and kidneys.
The cleaning of the water bodies is not the only reason that makes it the luxury commodity but also the fast depleting of water sources. The scarcity of fresh water is so much that it has become a luxury for some nations let alone a group of people. Countries like Yemen, Libya, Djibouti and whole of Western Sahara are facing an extreme water crisis. On the other hand, UAE is planning to pull icebergs from Antarctica to meet the water demand for their people – a luxury poor nations cannot afford.
A UNDP report says that Pakistani authorities are negligent about an impending water crisis that is posing a serious threat to the country’s stability. Experts say the South Asian country is likely to dry up by 2025. Similarly, MIT scientists have warned that India may face severe water shortage by 2050. Afghanistan too will face similar water crisis in future. For most of us; water is the sloshing sound filling up our glass and for the rest it is a clangoring sound of empty water-pots colliding each other waiting to be filled.
Could you believe that Sunlight is going to become a luxury too in the future?
One of the free natural resources along with water and air that has become luxury is the sunlight. Almost all of us don’t realize it. And, we cannot realize it until we see the life of millions of people living in the unauthorized settlements, ghettos, and slums. They are a major housing problem in developing nations.
The Neza-Chalco-Ixta of Mexico, Orangi Town of Karachi and Dharavi of Mumbai are the largest slums of the world. These are the places where the road, sewage, electricity, and clean water are not available. But one thing that goes unnoticed is the unavailability of sunlight for them. Sunlight is not only the main source of Vitamin D and the best of disinfectants but needed for a child’s normal growth. This is one of the vital needs of the people but no one talks about it. The life on planet earth would not have been possible without the sunlight.
The sunlight is not only the luxury of the people living in slums but it has become luxury for people living in tall buildings too. The buildings of cities are so high and compacted on a piece of land that the flats which receive direct sunlight for the most of the day come with a cost. The middle class has the no option but to afford the best among the ‘inventory’. This might be a minor issue today but the unplanned and unsustainable development of cities around the world will make this a major issue.
It’s better to read sustainable development in a science book than in history books.
Homo-sapiens who dwelled thousands of years in caves and forest later started to live in towns and cities. They cut the trees and build roads. They pushed into the natural forest to build concrete jungles. The unchecked and unplanned construction gave rise to slums, ghettos, and densely constructed skyscrapers. They constructed cities so cramped that even sunlight become a luxury. They started factories to make commodities for their ease and comfort. The factories later started to pollute the air and water. They started even more factories to now produce filters and purifiers to clean the air and water which they polluted themselves.
People are now fed up with this artificial lifestyle so much that they go in forest as tourists to relax and rejuvenate. The home they left thousands of years ago. They go to hill stations, strive for a desert safari, sunbathe on white sand beaches, and go for river rafting in clear waters.
I don’t understand if we like the natural beautify so much, why did we destroy them in the first place? We are today consuming 1.6 planets a year! That means we consumed resources for 1 year in just 8 months. We still have time and need to take this urgently else it will be too late. It’s better to read sustainable development in a science book than reading them in history books.