Cleaning the air will require more than just paying lip service

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17[1]I once saw a documentary called either “Super Trains” or “Supertrains” where I believe it was explained that one way of increasing the power output of a steam locomotive was, dimension-wise, to neither go broader in breadth nor higher in height (due to horizontal width and vertical height clearance limitations in effect at the time in the railway operating environment), but, instead, to go longer in length. When expanded or extended longitudinally along the horizontal axis, added room was thus available inside the loco superstructure to accommodate the higher horsepower-producing gear necessary to up the pulling power and that is exactly what was done. The limitation of being able to negotiate tight curves by the longer locomotives was overcome with what is called “articulation,” which essentially means that a pivot point was fashioned between the front and rear halves of the locomotive’s support frame thereby enabling the front portion to “swing” or move independently relative to the rear portion, that is, below the boiler which, itself, remained rigid. In engineering terms, this was the solution to putting more power under the hood, so to speak. Not only did this technique work for its time, it worked well, quite well, in fact.

These days, though, it seems an overarching philosophy is one of trying to do more with less. More efficiency with less excess, less energy expended and less waste seems the way to go. Adhering to this philosophy in the working world could also mean improved economics. And, with respect to a person engaged in physical work, this too seems sensible. It reminds me of the adage of working smarter, not harder.

If a person could do a greater amount of work and expend less energy in the process then that would be something to be strived for, right?

At any rate and as it relates, trying to do more with less makes sense in terms of dealing with certain kinds of situations but not all. Where the fit isn’t so right in this sense is in trying to solve the air pollution dilemma.

If less energy and time is put into the fight to clean the air, then I’m thinking the result is: “you get out what you put in.” More and smarter methods of improving air quality are needed and needed now more than ever because what has been employed thus far in terms of fixing the air obviously has not gone nearly far enough. If it had, this whole discussion would be moot.

I know I’m not just speaking off the top of my head, either.

I had learned only recently that in 2000, worldwide, there were a total of 800,000 premature deaths attributed to air pollution. In 2010, just 10 years later, more than 3.2 million people succumbed to polluted air’s effects; a whopping 300 percent increase. So this begs the question: what’s the percentage increase in population relative to the percentage increase of people dying prematurely from air pollution’s impact?

It is my understanding another billion people had been added to world population ranks in the previous 12 years. What this means is that in a dozen years, the population went from six billion to seven billion. Unless my mathematics skills are lacking, this works out to a population growth rate of roughly 17 percent in about that same span of time. Think about what that means. Diminishing returns? You tell me.

Going forward, in advancing the air pollution fight, what will the guiding sentiment be: continue as is or seriously rethink what is going on in this regard and institute doable, workable solutions that will correct what now can probably best be described as a deleterious, damaging and deplorable air condition? What will it be?

Time will surely tell all.

In referencing a quotation I cited once already but definitely bears repeating, “Failure is not an option.”

Image above: NASA

– Alan Kandel