Friday, February 8, 2013

Take a Sip of Delicious Canned Air


On the week of January 28th, while most of us are enjoying the clear skies and the fresh air, the citizens of Beijing, China are breathing concentration of airborne PM 2.5 particulates. This means that every breath they take it contains particles as small as 2.5 micrometers from smog, oil and other gaseous contaminants. The size of the particle will determine in which respiratory tract the particle it will stay, causing cancer of the trachea, bronchus, and lung. The smallest particles, less than 100 nanometers, can even reach our brain. To raise awareness, entrepreneur Chen Guangbiao began selling cans of fresh air. This is a fantastic idea to raise awareness, but by selling it on the streets he only reaches those less wealthy, middle class citizens who are already suffering from the disease. 

Companies increase profits by diverging costs away into the environment, which in the long term, increasing our cost for healthy living. Take for example fast food restaurants, whose cheap burgers are a product of the mass production of cows and dumping their manure into nearby rivers. The multimillionaire Guangbiao could do more to attack the problem such as penetrating these companies and working on legislative laws. At this hazardous state, which is above the 25 times World Health Organization standards, we need to be thinking into the future and not the greedy present. Although canned air was not given away for money, the act of fabrication and mass production most likely created pollution and contaminants. However, imagine a world in which the canned airs were not free and those who do not have the means to pay would perish due to respiratory and brain diseases. Is it a human right to be able to breathe clean air? The universal declaration of human rights does not state how to regulate our basic resources such as water and air. But it does state how our actions should not cause harm to others.

Beijing is invisible from outerspace. NASA’s photos show a thick grey haze over the densely populated city. When will be the threshold in which we all put down our tools, stand up from our desks, and realize that it is in each of every one of us, the capability to prevent the destruction of planet earth? I think what is holding us back is the monetary, profit based system in which we live in. It praises us for making decisions that although detrimental and inhumane, leads to the highest amount of money in our pockets. We need to redirect and shift our priorities to what is truly is important, the health of our planet and its living creatures.

Author: Aida Yoguely Cortés-Peña
NASA Student Ambassador
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Mechanical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology

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