World Environment Day Highlights Air Pollution

By Erin Hitchcock –

One of the best ways to challenge climate change is by tackling air pollution, and we all have our own unique roles to play. Whether pledging to stop idling, reducing consumption, or actively pressuring for change there is something each one of us can do and we need to start immediately.

On June 5, 1974 the first World Environment Day took place urging governments and organizations to preserve and enhance the environment, deepen environmental awareness, and pursue the determination of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. Since then, World Environment Day has “helped raise awareness and generate political momentum around growing concerns such as the depletion of the ozone layer, toxic chemicals, desertification, and global warming.”

It has also encouraged governments and people to take action on other urgent environmental issues, including consumption and national and international environmental policies. This year, on World Environment Day, the focus is on air pollution, with China hosting the day’s celebrations.

According to the United Nations about seven million people worldwide die prematurely each year from air pollution, with more than half of these deaths occurring in Asia-Pacific. Governments, industry, communities and individuals are being called up to come together to explore renewable energy and green technologies, as well as to improve air quality in communities around the world.

In Williams Lake, Rail Ties – Be Wise is urging the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources to disallow rail ties from being burned at Atlantic Power’s biomass plant. Rail ties may be treated with PCP and almost all are treated with creosote. Burning them lets off fumes into our airshed. To read more about this issue visit www.railtiesbewise.ca and to sign the petition please visit: https://you.leadnow.ca/petitions/don-t-burn-rail-ties-for-energy.

Forest fires in recent years have also impacted local air quality and, with climate change, fires are expected to escalate.

Vehicle emissions also affect health and climate change. A World Health Organization study published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health points to emissions from cars and trucks being responsible for four million children developing asthma every year.

If you own a gas- or diesel-powered vehicle, drive less, carpool, properly maintain your vehicle, and turn off your engine—CO2 emissions could be reduced by 1.4 million tonnes annually if Canadians avoided idling for three minutes each day of the year (visit BC Climate Action toolkit for more info on idling).

To take it to the next level, which is urgently needed, pressure governments to take strong action against climate change and air pollution. On Saturday, June 8 a Climate Action March will take place at Boitanio Park in Williams Lake following World Environment Day on June 5. Air pollution will be the theme; however, other environmental concerns are welcome.

Petitions urging local governments to declare a climate emergency are also available online: For the City of Williams Lake, visit http://chng.it/FkspgDJ7CS. For the Cariboo Regional District, visit http://chng.it/MMkZzMcY4x or contact me to request a paper version at erinhitchcock.cariboo@gmail.com.

Erin Hitchcock is a stay-at-home mom with a journalism diploma and 15 years of related experience. She is passionate about organic and plant-based diets, spirituality and reiki, and creating a better future for the Earth.

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