I’ve now experienced bad pollution for the first time in my life. Oh, I’ve smelled my share of exhaust fumes and fuel, but never has the sky become hazy, nor have health warnings been posted. The big question: Where is it coming from?
The heavy pollution in the sky appeared suddenly. And just as suddenly, people began talking about PM 2.5. What was this mystery particle? A quick search told me more than I ever would want to know. Apparently, PM 2.5 is prevalent in city areas, with Beijing, China being a place with some of the highest concentrations in the world. But how did it impact me, over 1000 miles away as the crow flies? Wind, of course. Nothing new. The wind carries it over and adds to the already present air pollution, making it much worse. City hall has issued warnings and we are told to wear facemasks.
It isn’t a horrible thing but I find myself a little angry. The actions of people far away are having a direct impact on me. It’s nothing new, countless decision are made every day about things that I’ll never know, either too complex for me to understand or too removed for me to engage. I don’t like to harbor that apathy, but I find it necessary because I can’t engage everything. None of us can.
One winter evening I decided to take a walk on a private beach. It was unseasonably warm and waves were splashing lazily against the shoreline. I walked out onto the wooden dock. In a few weeks the water would be frozen solid. As I stood there, the sky began a slow, complex dance with an array of gray and green ribbons of light.
I was transfixed by the beauty and time ran away as I meditated.
Later, I found out that somebody saw me that evening. I was approached by a common acquaintance who told me that the person who saw me was frightened. I had no clue. I was minding my own business in what I thought was a peaceful way, but I still hurt someone.
It taught me that we don’t live in a vacuum. The things we do impact those close to us as well as those far away and even our best intentions can cause harm. I think it is important to think about how our actions impact others, but it is also important not to let that stop you from making decisions.
My initial reaction was to insulate myself from the world. It was wrong. All it did was hurt me and those closest to me. I know now it wasn’t the right action to take. I should have made it right and continued living and communicating.
As far as PM 2.5. I hope that the dangerous levels that are being experienced will spark a clean energy revolution across the globe. We can’t disengage from the world and hope that things will repair themselves. We must engage.