Monday, September 14, 2015

The Hazy Days of Summer (errr... Dry Seasons)

Have you looked up an enjoyed that crystal clear blue sky lately?  If so, you were probably nowhere near SE Asia during the past week or two. As you know by now the haze we're all dealing with is an unhealthy side-effect of behaviors in Indonesia. Between health concerns and production methods, what gives?

A quick online search will indicate that Sumatra, where most of this haze originates, is in the tail end of a dry season. It's a season that allows for fires, often from slashing and burning, to rage increasingly out of control until the October rains appear, though there is concern that this could be delayed due to this year's expected El Nino effect. The Air Quality Index website (here) on Monday, September 14, 2015 indicated air quality levels teetering on the fence of "dangerous" (150) for the Klang Valley. We are, of course, understandably concerned for the wellbeing of our families and children.  

But for some it's harder still. One look at the bottom left corner of the image above (taken from the AQICN website  on Sep 14, 2015) will indicate an air quality reading of 796 in Pekanbaru (Riau), Indonesia!!  Is that a misprint? Perhaps, but this is also the epicenter of the at least some fires raging. At this level the numbers don't indicate a mere inconvenience, but a physical threat to life. Schools have closed, the airport shut down and people told to stay indoors. This, of course, has an obvious impact on health, but also on the economy (missed work opportunities, less tourist arrivals, etc.), and environment and social life too. 

From a sustainability standpoint this brings together numerous dimensions.  When we look at global issues like this it is helpful to view them through a "systems" perspective. How do economic, political, ecological and social dimensions interplay in the fires in Indonesia and around the region?  How can affecting one of these dimensions have a knock on effect to the others?  How can our personal and collective behaviors add to, or detract from, such large scale health risks? In what ways can we leverage change to create a better win-win situation for the future? These are necessary conversations in an increasingly interconnected world. They are conversations we're having at school. Hopefully they are also conversations you're having at home.  The conversations (and solutions) at ISKL continue long after the rains have put out the fires for this round. 

No comments: