(Picture courtesy of flickr.com.)
If you’ve noticed pictures and film coming to us from the capitol of Afghanistan, Kabul, out on the streets there is a thick haze and residents wear masks over the nose and mouth. That is not a sandstorm perpetually raging, it is the cost of unprotected burning of anything and everything that is needed to make things go.
Old cars are shipped into third world countries quite generally, and our used gas burners populate the streets while generators are in use with similar polluting features to create energy that isn’t produced by vastly inadequate public energy plants. The fossil fuels are giving the life force to a population that is jammed into much too little space, without controls that might make the city viable.
Admission to hospitals (using generators) has boomed for issues of respiratory distress, and more are dying from pollution’s effects than from our bombs.
While in our Congress voices are raised to combat ineffective use of our resources to rebuild, none are raised to protect an entire population from pollution produced by that rebuilding effort.
The figures are stark. Around 3,000 people per year die of air pollution in Kabul, the National Environment Protection Agency said last year.
By comparison, the United Nations says that 2,777 civilians were killed in the war across Afghanistan in 2010.
There are several main causes of air pollution, but underpinning them all is Kabul’s rapid expansion as people fled to the capital in search of relative stability amid fighting in many rural areas.
The city was designed for about one million people but is now home to around five million, a figure which the Kabul municipality says has doubled in six years.
What we can’t protect from insurgents we certainly aren’t protecting from the byproducts of industrialization and overcrowding.
Complaints about the productivity of our dollars have to sound devastatingly indifferent in the wasteland our influence has created of their capitol city to Afghan ears.
Our corporate polluters that are fighting to turn back protection to the U.S. population has a working demonstration of the future we have to fear without limits on the poisons they can produce.