Air pollution is very “in” right now; all the fastest-growing developing countries are producing it. Smog is currently choking India’s capital of New Delhi, grounding flights, stopping trains, and forcing Indian urbanites indoors. Reuters reports:
The fine particles suspended in the fog ranged as much as seven times beyond the concentration that India considers safe, to reach a level the United States Environmental Protection Agency calls “hazardous”. […]The cloak of fog draping much of north India forced dozens of flights to be diverted or canceled, disrupted train schedules and led to a doubling in the number of medical emergencies caused by breathing difficulty, officials said.
It’s hard not to draw a connection between New Delhi’s air pollution problem and Beijing’s much more publicized battle to clear its skies. In both cases, rapid development has come at the expense of the surrounding environment. It’s worse in China, where nearly half of the world’s coal is being burned, but the countries’ shared goal of rapid industrialization is producing a similar problem.The developed world struggled with toxic gray skies during its industrial era, so it’s tempting to look at what’s happening in these two BRIC powerhouses as an unfortunate but unavoidable byproduct of coming up in the world. But given the technology at hand and the impending transition in the West from a manufacturing economy to an information economy, who’s to say that India and China need to follow the paved development model? Skip a step and skip the smog.