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Air pollution’s a threat to humanity’s wellbeing

Only living in a simpler way with more concern for each other will reverse the accelerating decline of the environment, writes PAUL DONOVAN

THE move by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to extend the low emissions zones out across the capital must be welcomed. It is the type of radical measure needed if endemic pollution, as well as climate change, are to be addressed.

The regret must be that while there do seem to be very real efforts being made to address the problems caused by motor vehicles, the same cannot be said for aircraft.

Above our heads, the skies simply fill with ever more planes. The City Airport capacity has expanded, with Heathrow on the verge of building another runway.

The old predict and provide policies of the road builders that have proved so damaging on the ground, now appear to be replicated in the skies. How much longer before action is taken on aircraft pollution?

One of the most striking things about many environmental challenges is that so many seem to demand back to the future solutions. Things have been done in the name of progress, which in the end are making people less healthy and putting the future of the planet at stake.

So 25 years ago most children walked to school — today, many go to school in motor vehicles, increasing pollution and contributing to the obesity epidemic among them.

It is good to see schemes to get kids and parents out of their cars and walking to school but why did we go down the driving route in the first place?

The expansion of air travel is also a relatively recent development — 30 years ago, there were not the planes in the air there are today. Are all of those journeys really necessary?

Many regard it as some sort of human right to have holidays overseas every year. But if the choice is a holiday or the ability to feed ourselves and save the planet surely that is a no-brainer?

The real challenge is to accept that blundering on in this consumerist style, wasting more and more of the world resources, is not the way to go. To some extent we need to pull back and start living a bit more simply, accepting that maybe not everything that has been done on the altar of producing more profit for a few people is good for everyone.

The recent campaigns to cut the use of plastic marks a dramatic change. There is a recognition that the world simply cannot go on poisoning itself, producing plastic and throwing it away.

Less plastic must be produced, simply recycling it won’t solve the already huge problems the world faces. If it is genuinely removed from much of daily life, it will mean a different world — maybe simpler but certainly a more sustainable one.

The sort of questions being thrown up by the plastics revolution need to be extended to other destructive practices in the way we live.

It is a change of mindset to a way of living that is simpler and less devastating to the planet. It will mean developing less destructive consumerist ways of living.

If humanity is to survive the present challenges, people need to act collectively for the common good. A common good that can only be achieved by living in a simpler way with more concern for each other.

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