The air that we breathe
Posted by Collins Dictionaries @ Wednesday 05 June 2019
Sometimes, all we need is the air that we breathe… but unfortunately that is no longer as wholesome as it sounds. The quality of the air that we breathe is under threat. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nine out of ten people breathe polluted air, and the WHO also estimates that around 7 million people die every year from diseases related to the pollution in the air.
It is impossible to ignore the climate emergency (a word that has increased in usage by over 500% since last year) that we are facing. The very words that we use now reflect the choices that people are starting to make to combat air pollution. The terms zero-emission vehicle, ULEV and ULEZ (both referring to ultra-low emissions) were barely known five years ago, but are now becoming familiar. Other abbreviations to come into play are EV and PHEV which, having already increased in usage over recent years, are set to enter people’s everyday vocabulary – these are electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to the uninitiated. At the same time, the consequences of the climate crisis are also mirrored in our language: words such as climate refugee are being used over three times as often as they were five years ago, and carcinogen has seen a 100% rise in usage since last year.
The main focus of World Environment Day in 2019 is to encourage people to take some kind of action to #BeatAirPollution. Almost every aspect of all of our lives, from cooking to eating to driving to working, has a potential impact on the quality of our air, which means that the simplest of everyday actions can have an impact. Actions can range from being part of a carshare (another word that has a substantial increase in usage), or turning off the car engine rather than idling, to composting and recycling food and other waste. A reduction in the amount of meat that we eat, in the number of lights that we turn on, and the number of miles that we drive can start to shift the balance, if everyone gets involved.
So, maybe it’s time to make the air that we need to breathe, air that is worth breathing.