Every breath we take…

Each of us sustains our life by breathing about 20,000 times a day. Yet for almost four centuries, we have been polluting our life-giving air, especially in the industrial world, taking little or no action to preserve its clarity and freedom from toxins.  

In 1661, John Evelyn, a respected London diarist and founder of the Royal Society, wrote the world’s first treatise on air pollution:  The Fumigugium, The Inconvenience of the Aer and Smoak of London Dissipated. In it he refers to Greek philosophers who believed that air was the “primary substance of the soul.”

“Turmi Clay, Ethiopia”
by Lisa Kristine

The Omo Valley is situated in the most remote and inaccessible part of Ethiopia. Only in 1992 did many of its natives became aware that there was even a country called Ethiopia and that they were part of it. In this ancient, unaffected other world, millennium old lifestyles still thrive. Hunters and gatherers cloaked in animal skins roam undisturbed by modernity or outside influence.

The Hamar women are renowned for their beauty; the strength and elegance in each gesture is unforgettable. Living so closely with the earth, it seems only fitting that ocher clay is used as a cosmetic for both skin and hair. The spirit of these individuals is intense and grounded. To witness pride with true purity still intact is a sight which is not only a wonder but also an inspiration.

This is a history of Earth’s disintegrating air, told from an English point of view.

Followed by this BBC report on the current (July 2023) and unequal state of air pollution across the continents.

Treat the Earth well.
It was not given to you
by your parents.
It was loaned to you
by your children.

~ Kenyan Proverb

Next is a Chinese example (from The Economist) of how activists worldwide are handling air pollution.

The Perseids meteor shower over Sinemorets, Bulgaria.
Visible every August.

The Borgen Project is one of thousands of small non-profits around the globe working to diminish air polllution. As further example of our current world-wide challenges to restore clean air, here is their accessible and straight-forward report on air pollution in Africa.

We are made of this planet. She is in us. We are her. We are breathing her. She is breathing us.” With piercing words and images that call for each of us to step up, Claire Dubuois of England, founder of Treesisters, confirms we are alive for a reason. 

Here’s how to breathe cleaner air in polluted cities, a TED talk by Saketaram Soussilane, a robotics engineer, turned banker, who founded MEO, an air analytics company, in 2012.

Also a report from Sigma Earth, written in March 2022, offering clarity and promise on restoring fresh air. (Sigma Earth is one of India’s leading blogs on sustainable energy, climate change and natural resource management. Begun in 2012, it publishes regular news, views, and articles. Since 2020, when the Indian government and the National Institution for Transforming India launched Green India, it started focusing upon sustainable energy.)

How many of us begin or end the day with a healthy run outdoors – hopefully in fresh air? Here are some fabulous suggestions for our daily runs — or perhaps walks with a friend or strolls with a baby carriage, each to our own deep breathing and enlightenment — in the urban surrounds of the world, thanks to the reporters of The Financial Times (4/18/23).

Malaysian sisters, 1980’s / by Jimmy Nelson

So how exactly is your neighborhood air moving today? This image of the globe shows all our current surface level winds (as well as ocean currents, etc.)

Here is a ten-minute review of the complicated science of air polllution. It might turn you into an activist on the spot!

The Guardian describes this documentary as: “Whimsical almost to the point of absurdity, this beautiful, meditative film about an Indian bird sanctuary is full of soul-transforming magic.” “All That Breathes” (link is an interview of the director) is a grand jury prize winner at Sundance, won the best documentary at Cannes, as well as received Bafta and Oscar nominations. Here’s the trailer.