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Posts Tagged ‘pollution’

They say that smell is the strongest trigger of memories. Lately I’ve been having flashbacks of my trouble-making youth, when I went through that phase where you like to light things on fire and see how they change. Today on the bus to Allepey I remembered my Grandmother’s damp basement and me and my sister and two of my cousins striking matches and then burning the end of a ballpoint pen. Little black globules floated in the dim lit air like drugged-out fruit flies. My heart raced from the thought of our Grandma catching us. We knew what we were doing wasn’t allowed, but back then curiosity was the excuse that made allowances for everything. I smooshed the melted pen onto a piece of paper and smiled; it looked like a royal seal.

Sitting alone on the bus this morning I found myself holding my breath more often than usual. Every few minutes my lungs would feel the faint contraction that comes from inhaling dirty smoke. Most of the time it was just a pile of old leaves and garbage that was burning- it’s the dry season in Kerala and thinks are getting brittle. But every now and then I’d know that I was smelling burning plastic and my mind would go back to that brown house in the country, the last on the left on Green Grove Dr.

There are some things that I know I will never take for granted again. In the U.S. I can turn on a tap and know that I can drink the water without having to worry about getting hepatitis (I can get this water basically for free, unless of course it becomes privatized and corporations get to charge whatever they want so that they can make a profit from it).  In the U.S. there’s this idea that people have a right to clean air (unless, of course, you’re a poor black kid living in the South Bronx. Or a poor white kid living in Scranton next to Route 81). In the U.S. anyone can get a great education, so long as they study hard (and are already in the middle class so that they have the money to afford skyrocketing tuition).

Something I’m starting to realize is that there are things in this world that are universal.  Everywhere has its mischievous children and scolding grandmothers.  But when it comes to shaping the world that we live in and the way that we’re influenced by it- a.k.a. when it comes to pushing for environmental change- whether it regards health or aesthetics or infrastructure, there is a lot that the U.S. has already been done.  There isn’t trash on the side of our roads and our air isn’t clouded with the toxic fumes of burning plastic.  But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing left to fight for.  It’s the things in the parentheses, the people in the parentheses, that we need to make sure don’t go unnoticed.  This is why activism is so necessary.  When there’s someone in the U.S. pointing out how clean our air is and how free our people are, someone else needs to be there to point out that actually the cleanliness of one’s air and the freedom that one has depends on the size of one’s wallet.

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