可悲的是電力缺乏而又空污嚴重的地區。全無電力或幾無電力的人無法享受潔淨的飲水、衛生的飲食、基礎教育或醫療服務，除了不得不忍受沙漠風塵的侵襲，還得被迫承受生活優裕的人所製造的空污。這20餘億人壽命不長 ─ 平均約 50 歲。
Illustration 1: Global view of PM2.5 air pollution（WHO）
Illustration 2: Global view of the Earth at night (ORNL)
A few thoughts triggered by two illustrations
According to a WHO (World Health Organisation) report released on 27 September 2016, 92% of the world's population live in places where air pollution exceeds the recommended WHO limits. In 2012, the report pointed out that an estimated 6.5 million deaths were associated with air pollution, with some three millions deaths linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution.
Nearly two out of three of the deaths occurred in the heavily polluted Southeast Asia and Western Pacific regions, and the rest occurred mostly in Africa and the Middle East because of serious sand storms. Illustration 1 (by the WHO) shows the global distribution of air pollution, with the dark red area indicating heavy air pollution and the light red area representing light air pollution.
Lack of energy and yet plagued by diseases
The American Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) produced an aerial view of the Earth at night showing global electricity distribution (Illustration 2). The areas with abundant electricity are shown in white, while the areas with insufficient electricity supply are shown in grey. The North Pole and sparsely populated areas with little or no electricity are shown in black.
Of the 7.6 billion world population, about 2 billion still live in deep poverty with little or no electricity and are largely ignored by the rest of the world.
In comparing these two seemingly irrelevant illustrations of the world, we can see that with the exception of areas with abundant hydraulic or nuclear power, or deserts or other sparsely populated areas, the red pollution indicator in the air pollution distribution illustration dovetails with the white electricity abundance indicator in the electricity distribution illustration. In other words, while the power generated from fossil fuels may provide us with light, it also creates lethal air pollution.
What is particularly pitiful are the regions with limited electricity but heavy pollution. People living in areas with little or no electricity are unlikely to enjoy clean drinking water, hygienic food, basic education or medical service, yet they have to put up with the air pollution created by people who have an affluent lifestyle, in addition to suffering from polluting sand storms in many cases. These people, about 2 billion strong, have an average life span of only 50 years.
Areas with an insufficient supply of energy are often plagued by various diseases. In addition to common traditional diseases, like dysentery and malaria, they may suffer from outbreaks of relatively modern diseases, such as AIDS, SARS, Ebola or Zika, or new influenza strains. Since we all now live in the same globalised environment, these diseases can travel far and wide, affecting people in more advanced areas of the world who create most of the air pollution in a sweeping way. No country or region is spared.
Air pollution has no borders. The spread of viruses has no borders either. Since we are all encompassed by the same atmosphere, there is no exclusively independent freedom.
15 January, 2018