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Op-ed: Would you rather die today or in eight years?

 An award winning op-ed in IMS’s “Editorial Project”

By Anika Manchanda

Did you know that spending just one day in Delhi, India, shortens your lifespan by two hours? Think about taking a two week vacation there. That’s over a day of your life, gone. Now imagine living there. Spending your whole life trapped in the heavy smog that envelops Delhi 24/7. Delhi’s inhabitants lose up to 8.3 years of their life just because of the toxic air they are forced to breathe in every day.

According to the World Health Organization, the recommended maximum for air pollution is 300PM2.5 (300 particle matters 2.5 micrometers thick per square meter), but according to the New York Times, Delhi has reached over 600PM2.5; more than twice the amount that is labeled as “emergency.” Delhi’s air pollution is so lethal, such frequent exposure to that concentration of PM2.5 is equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes a day. Essentially, every person in Delhi, from infants to the elderly, is a two pack-a-day smoker.

While the air pollution in Delhi is without a doubt horrible, it doesn’t seem to affect anyone except those who are actually there. So why should Americans care? Delhi’s air pollution is a result of litter, car exhaust, fireworks, landfills, chimneys, and power plants. Sound familiar? The causes of extreme air pollution are not specific to Delhi. The fact is, this extreme air pollution could easily occur in America.

What may surprise you is that Delhi’s inhabitants actually don’t pollute as much as we Americans do. According to the Duke Center for Sustainability and Commerce at Duke University, every American produces about 4.3 pounds of waste every day, as opposed to Indians, who produce 3.7 pounds of waste daily. If we polluted just as much as India, we would produce 34,919,550 less tons of waste than we do now. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

What I’m trying to say is, Delhi is an example of what could happen by polluting LESS than we do right now, which is why it’s imperative that we take care of our environment. The only difference between Delhi and America, which has caused the pollution in Delhi’s air quality to be so horrible, is that India has four times the number of people in ⅓ the space of America. However, if the American population continues to grow and pollute just as much as we do right now, before we know it, our entire country will be worse than what Delhi is like today.

Credit: The New York Times

Credit: The New York Times

Trust me when I say you don’t want that. I have been to Delhi to visit my grandparents about 14 times now, and you can barely see out of your window in the early morning. What’s even worse is knowing that my life has been cut short by 14 days; not to mention my dad’s and uncle’s life will be two years less, and my grandparents by eight years. How do you live wondering what those extra years could have been like?

My dad tells me that when he was younger, he would wake up to the song of the sweet, house sparrow tweeting at the rising sun. Unfortunately, the sweet little bird that once flew freely among Delhi’s trees has been forced to evacuate Delhi. Look up “where have all the sparrows gone,” and you’ll find countless articles of Delhi’s citizens wondering where their favorite state bird went. No longer can these playful, happy birds roam Delhi as they please. Their species was forced to fly away from Delhi because of pollution, and humans could be forced to flee as well. So much for happy childhood memories.

So, all I ask of you, the reader, is that you recycle that tin can you see lying on the street, turn the lights off after you leave your house, or carpool instead of using separate vehicles. If you knew you had the power to allow your current and future family to live prosperous, healthy lives, would you take action and do what you could to ensure a positive future for them, or leave them to deal with our environmental problems? Do we want future Americans to be dead even a day early because of our laziness?  


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