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I watched as my pet cockatiel’s lungs gave up: Air pollution lessons from a 13-year-old

'A lot of us are unaware that our everyday steps of taking public transport, carpooling of bicycling can make a big contribution towards reducing emissions levels.'

Published: December 4, 2019 11:46:54 am
air pollution Tvisha Raj

By Tvisha Raj

We wake up day after day to see morbid grey skies and unremitting clouds of pollution. However, we only seem to become aware of its existence when the poor air quality makes the headlines of newspapers or the proof of it blares on every news channel on television.

Anyone who knows me knows of the ardour I share for animals. I used to have two adorable cockatiels at my house. We got them when they were chicks, and I was instantly in love with their fluffed up bodies and stunning crowns. We named our birds Dart and Anna; we had bought an air-purifier a long time ago, and it was always on. We doted on them both, that was, until Diwali came around. A few days before the festival, Anna began to get sick. She stopped eating and no longer had the strength to flap her wings and fly all around the room. I remember her occasionally trying to chirp, only for her voice to come out hoarse and pained.

When we took her to the vet, he claimed she had a severe respiratory disease. We stayed up for an entire night, getting her wasted, broken body out of the cage every hour, and practically shoving food and medicine down her throat. It didn’t help and we watched our bird, or rather our chick, slowly wither away, scarcely breathing, little more than a shattered corpse fighting against a hurricane of pollution just so that she could hold on to life. She couldn’t, she died in my hands, her lungs collapsed, the vet said.

For some reason, we remain blissfully impervious to the pollution in Delhi until the festival of Diwali comes along and worsens the already deteriorating air. What we don’t realise while coughing our lungs out is that the pollution that seems to magically appear after Diwali, has always been there and that bursting crackers merely exacerbates it. It is because of people’s failure to realise this that they spend the days after Diwali attempting to figure out what they can do to mitigate air pollution, not realising that they played a huge role in creating it, even if they didn’t burst crackers.

Reducing air pollution is like a gigantic mountain that all of us are striving to climb, but none of us are willing to take the first step, because we don’t realise that even a single step could make a difference. Fighting air pollution is no doubt a war that we all have to fight together, but it is also a series of individual battles, that we just have to be willing to win.

Spreading awareness

One of the most important ways to decrease air pollution is to spread awareness about the role each of us as an individual play, directly or indirectly in causing it. A lot of us are unaware that our everyday steps of taking public transport, carpooling of bicycling can make a big contribution towards reducing emissions levels.

Reducing consumerism

Consumerism is one of the most pernicious causes of air pollution. This is majorly because the majority is unaware of its existence. We live in an extremely materialistic, use and throw society. As the demand for goods skyrocket, the production rate surges which puts a huge stress on our natural resources. Did you know that it takes 2700 litres of water to produce a single T-shirt? Also, increased production capacities lead to more pollutant emissions, increased land-use and accelerated climate change and air pollution. Reducing consumerism is imperative to decreasing pollution of all kinds and our unchecked pillage of our natural resources. We must understand how each time we reject a reusable commodity, we hurt the environment.

Around the house

Another step that we can take to prevent air pollution is to minimize the use of aerosols or sprayers like paint cans, air fresheners or deodorants. Aerosols are major contributors to air pollution, and diminishing their use could improve air quality significantly.

Similarly, we can combat air pollution by conserving energy, and looking for the energy star label before buying any home appliances. We fail to recognise the fact that most mechanisms for the generation of electricity result in the emission of green-house gasses like carbon dioxide and methane.

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Implementing these changes in our lives will cause us minimal discomfort, but may make the difference between living in a Delhi filled with bustling bodies and cheerful smiles or living in a Delhi with rising respiratory diseases. Turning off the lights before we leave a room, or opening the windows instead of spraying air fresheners won’t impact our lives as much as waking up one day and finding out that we are battling lung failure. Right now, we have the chance to choose which reality we want to live, and unless we decide to fight our individual battles with air pollution or to take that first step up the mountain, we will undoubtedly lose the war.

(The writer is a student of Grade 8, Shiv Nadar School.)

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