I haven’t lived anywhere I’m more conscious of “the fragility of each breath” than New York City.
The density of traffic fumes and tobacco clouds, and occasionally the pungent odor of marijuana, too—all of these pollutants make it easy to notice my breath and the quality of air I’ve taken for granted until now.
When I get back to Maryland and stand on the grass and breathe in deeply, fresh air means something new to me, something extraordinarily precious. We need to hold that quality of attention to the world we’re part of, and we need to do it consistently.
The US government’s latest executive orders, perversely signed today at the Environmental Protection Agency, include lowering power plant emissions targets, and continuing investment in fossil fuels: we’re going to keep burning, keep piping, and keep warming this planet for at least the next four years (likely the next eight).
And the United States’ new policies are being justified in the name of a profitable energy industry. They assume this country has only a limited impact on the ecosystem beyond its political borders. These policies are an effective denial that we have the responsibility to care and act in favor of “the sacredness of life,” that we’re not just accountable to private, corporate advantage.
I recently saw a social media post of still pictures from an un-credited documentary. In three frames, an indigenous person explains nature’s generosity:
“Nature gives us everything for free. Nature doesn’t charge us any money. All nature asks of us is that we protect it,” they say.
But it’s only partly true. Nature doesn’t charge but changing the status quo will cost us all, and it will cost us the longer we wait to start.
Read Vox’s explainer to understand the full scope of the new executive rules.