Last Tuesday I was in Chicago, and all was going well until a seemingly unlikely event started a chain reaction that would lay me up in bed for nearly three days… It rained.
Yep. It didn’t rain very hard, or very long, but it just so happened that I was walking about a mile or so through the city back to my hotel during the light rain. I could have caught a cab, but instead I ducked into a Walgreen’s and got a baseball hat and kept walking.
I know what you’re thinking. But no, I didn’t catch a cold!
I was taking my time, even stopping to snap photos of skyscrapers in the rain, when about halfway back to the hotel I started having difficulty catching my breath. Now I don’t have asthma, and I can generally out walk anyone I know, so it took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on. I was having an allergic reaction to something.
Pollution Ruins the Day
By the time I got to my hotel room my throat was already starting to burn, my nose was running, and my breathing was constricted. I took a drug cocktail consisting of Zyrtec-D, Flonase and Advair (for the first time in weeks) and went to sleep.
When I awoke on Wednesday after a restless night of sleep, I discovered that my throat was on fire, I was still having trouble breathing, and I’d almost completely lost my voice. Oh, and this was right before I had to deliver my Cloud Computing lecture at HostingCon. So, I dosed up on meds again, and started out my day.
To cut a long story short, I was sick for days and I’m 100% certain that it was caused by the rain stirring up the pollution all over the city. My evidence, in addition to personally being a walking allergic test subject, was the fact that three other people who had been out and about with me at the same time experienced similar symptoms! And none of them even have allergies!
Too Many Coincidences
So, on Thursday I’m on the airplane heading for home and I’m reading the July/August issue of Dwell magazine in which they are explaining that concrete production accounts for 8% of the CO2 emissions on the planet. They also go on to dedicate much of the issue to methods of “green” architecture, and to call for designers to incorporate every manner of technology into projects to be Earth friendly.
On Friday, while I’m laid up in bed, I pull out the May Men’s Health magazine (which I’ve had for months but haven’t had time to read) and I catch an article called “Where the Bugs Are” that points out all the places to expect nasty contaminants in public places which will make you sick.
Then, when I get around to checking my e-mail later in the day there is a message from Cathy Zoi of The We Campaign offering me to take a little environmental quiz to see how much I know about how bad we’re wrecking our planet. Oh, and pointing out that Exxon just broke the all time record for quarterly profits.
After the quiz I stopped to watch Al Gore’s highlights reel from a speech he gave a little while back about his recent “challenge” for America to convert to 100% clean electricity production in 10 years. I hadn’t really bothered watching till now, because I figure we could never pull this off anyway, but I have to admit that every time I watch him speak Gore impresses me.
So, What’s The Point?
Well, the point of all this is that I was thinking… it’s not just that the oil producing countries have the rest of us by the family jewels, the fact that we are digging up every fossil fuel resource we can find and burning it to create energy pumps so much crap into the air that it literally makes us sick! My experience in Chicago last week was a brutal example of the effects of this pollution.
So, my question is, why the hell don’t we actually take this challenge of Gore’s? I just don’t see any serious drawbacks! But I can think of a few potential benefits:
- Clean up our air! Frankly, I don’t care about saving money. I’ve got plenty of that. And I don’t have kids to worry about leaving anything to. But I do place a premium on breathing.
- Make a boatload of cash! If American’s build clean air technologies, the rest of the world will buy them from us! After WWII we got rich selling technology to the rest of the world that no longer had it. This is the same thing, but without all the mess associated with blood, guts and war.
- Simplify our world! Electric powered machinery is far simpler, quieter and cleaner. Even electric cars have 1/4 the parts in them. So we can be more efficient with resources while reaping the benefits of a quieter environment.
If there is one thing I agree with VP Gore about it’s this: we simply lack the political will to do it. It’s not a technological problem, we’ve already got that. It’s a determination problem. And you know what? Until everyone begins to experience breathing problems like me, we’re never going to fix it. There is just not enough pain… yet.