Saturday, June 22, 2013

Singapore Smog

The health concerns smog represents are real and severe. Its ubiquity has become woven into the fabric of urban life, as such air quality indexes have been created to provide guidance on the level of health impacts just by breathing.

While not every city grapples with airborne particulate, what's happening in Singapore right now is really interesting and quite horrible. In the days leading up to the first day of summer here is a visual progression of the air quality in Singapore:

The pictures from the 20th and 21st look like they were taken from a sci-fi movie set in a post-apocalyptic land...not Singapore 2013.

The reason the smog level is the highest its been in 16 years is due to naturally occurring fires and plantations clearing land in preparation for another growing season, much of which is happening in Sumatra. Intense winds are blowing wildfire smoke in a northeasterly direction, crushing Singapore...check out this slider image showing the smoke coverage over the course of a few hours, you have to click on the Image Comparison button.

As the Al Jezeera report illustrates, limited resources and the lack of political will to take steps to deal with the causes of these events mean that many will have to endure the potentially hazardous smog until conditions such as: rain, change in wind, or the fires being extinguished take place.

Seeing this unfold and being a resident of Southern California where we're under Red Flag warning, in the middle of a drought, and are already dealing with smog on a daily basis, makes me question how  our urban cities would deal with a similar situation and whether the political would exist to enact swift and substantive changes to remedy the situation.

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