Danger Zone

In Europe, dust, picked up from the Sahara, has caused high levels of “smog-like” air pollution to waft over London and other regions.

In Ireland, citizens are abuzz with talk of the return of the “Celtic Tiger,” the famed Irish period of rapid economic growth, with gross domestic product on the rise and increased market mobility. This has also increased their exports and attracted an increasing number of international investors.

Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands have negotiated an agreement with the EU concerning the total allowable catch of the much sought-after blue whiting fish. The deal will hopefully prevent over-fishing in the North Atlantic.

You may notice a trend in all of these events. They all, no matter what country they originated in, had some impact, tangible or not, around the world. Surprisingly enough, countries — now more than ever — do not exist in a vacuum. The world is a web of connections. A local politician’s ambitions do not just impact his constituents; drilling does not just change the ecosystem of a single community. This fact is all too often forgotten.

It was determined in 2012 that 7 million people died annually of air pollution across the globe. This made air pollution the single greatest environmental health hazard. Recently, the UN World Health Organization released data directly and indirectly connecting outdoor and indoor air pollution to cardiovascular diseases such as strokes as well as cancer. The most staggering claim to come out of this report is that air pollution causes one in eight deaths worldwide.

The underlying point of the study is that air pollution is not just a threat in China, where some cities have palpable walls of inky fog awaiting their citizens some mornings. Air pollution has coated the earth, in some form or another, and it seems no one is entirely safe from the threats unclean air presents.

Of course, these figures should not be taken at face value. New groups with purportedly no agenda, or an entirely different agenda than WHO, should revisit these ostensible findings. They are certainly not reproach. It can be assumed, however, that the threat of air pollution is growing.

It is hard to remain concerned when the only threats environmental deterioration pose seem distant or overblown by scientists or politicians wielding esoteric verbiage. We are buffeted everyday by these stories of doom and gloom, and many fall by the wayside. This type of story should not be ignored, though. If given the right publicity, these dry figures can drive change and remind people of their impact.

In Youngstown and far beyond, we all have a tendency to burrow away from news because it is too cynical or fatalistic. It is Goliath and we are far less than David. But this story perfectly displays that there are problems we all impact, miniscule though it may be. Embrace the responsibility these stories both burden us with and bestow on us.

This story also offers up an example of tangible consequences if we don’t each act. We can point to these deaths; we can point to the faces of family and friends who possibly could still be alive if things were just a bit different. This issue has the human element, and the human element can raise armies.

Youngstown and Youngstown State University, remember this because we are in the perfect position. At one time, we contributed to a booming economy but also a healthy tradition of heedless pollution that still plagues us today. Now, as we hopefully move into the tech industry, the university students of today will be the managers of tomorrow, and they will decide the practices and methods of this industry. Remain conscious of the potent impact even innocent business decisions can have.

As aforementioned, we live in a global community. The world only grows smaller, and this is not always a good thing. As our population continues to grow, the once innocent substances we employee become all the more dangerous. People can no longer claim, without question, that ‘this is my body, house or property, I have the right to do what I want with it’ when there is observable data that their choices are contributing to a random fisherman in Iceland’s health issues.

All of our choices create a ripple.