Greater urgency, resolve, cooperation needed to curb pollution

As mentioned previously air pollution is now a major contributing factor in global premature death; a definite cause for concern. In fact, based on information published in a Time magazine article, pollution is in the top 10 on the list of world killers and is moving up in rank faster than all others.

Sadly, I liken the fight to eliminate polluted air to the battle to curb vehicle crashes, train-to-train collisions and overspeed derailments. Headway in this regard is being made, sure, but is the urgency, resolve and cooperation to really make a difference all that it can be?

It was just the other day – Sunday, Dec. 1st, to be exact – that Americans were again reminded of the horror and severity that can be coupled to collisions and overspeed derailments of trains, all on account of another incident; this time involving a Metro North commuter train in the Bronx in New York. Prompted by this crash, a renewed call for widespread implementation on the nation’s railroads of an automatic safety system known as Positive Train Control or PTC has been initiated. The federal government has mandated its installation on approximately 70,000 U.S. mainline track miles by the end of December in 2015. That’s but a scant two years away.

Just so you know, in the derailment in question in the Bronx on Sunday, the speed of the involved Metro North train at the time of the crash was reported to be 82 miles per hour – almost three times the track speed limit in the curved section of track where the train derailed. There were several fatalities and dozens of injuries.

Now add to this that in the U.S. each year more than 30,000 people lose their lives in motor vehicle-involved crashes. But these numbers pale in comparison to the number of people dying prematurely on account of pollution: In America, it is estimated that annually there are as many as 200,000. And, globally, the figure is more than 10 times that: 3.2 million in all.

There is a moral imperative to reduce the number of transportation-related fatalities and injuries caused from crashes; okay, I get that. But, the moral imperative to cut, if not eliminate outright, pollution-caused death and sickness, should be just as, if not more, pronounced. Both situations should prompt wake-up calls.

And where transportation and toxic air are concerned, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA), transportation-sourced pollution is still excessive.

In “A closer look at urban transport: TERM 2013: transport indicators tracking progress towards environmental targets in Europe,” from the EEA, written in the “Executive Summary” is: “Transport guarantees our mobility and access to goods. Moreover, the transport sector helps maintain and develop our societal and economic systems. Transport is also a main source of pressures on the environment, such as the unsustainable use of natural resources, as well as greenhouse gas, air pollutant and noise emissions. Many of these environmental problems are inter-linked, requiring comprehensive and systemic policies at multiple levels of governance in response.”

Exactly. I believe the above sums up the matter quite accurately.

Cypress_collapsed[1]But I would like to stress one other point. In watching a broadcast news report all having to do with the city of Detroit, Michigan being very hard-hit by bankruptcy, the person in front of the camera in speaking on the city’s demise, definitely hit the nail on the head when, in effect, he said that had the bankruptcy been sudden and severe, something on the order of say a Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy or Typhoon Haiyan or Loma Prieta earthquake and what they, in their wakes, themselves left behind, as opposed to a long, knock-down, drag out event that, in essence, the Motor City insolvency was, it was the opinion of the on-camera personality that there would be unprecedented urgency to rebuild. But because the greater Detroit region’s failing was very gradual as it were, recovery seems to be very gradual as well.

Question: Is it ditto regarding curbing pollution?

– Alan Kandel

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