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Friday, August 12, 2005

Air Quality Index

In another attempt to downplay the significance of our API(Air Pollutant Index) ratings, which hasn't been released over the last couple of years because in 1997 Malaysia practically banned the publication or the release of any API readings for fear that it will affect our tourism industry. While API might not sound the same as AQI, it is essentially the same reading.

0-50: Good (green)
51-100: Moderate (yellow)
101-150: Unhealthy for sensitive groups (orange)
151-200: Unhealthy (red)
201-300: Very unhealthy (purple)
301-500: Hazardous (maroon)

As of 5pm yesterday, the API levels in Kuala Lumpur reached 295, Petaling Jaya 326, Port Klang 486, Kuala Selangor 527, Shah Alam 430 and Putrajaya 354.

The media has thus led us to believe that anything from 300 to 400 is dangerous, but still acceptable, since it isn't in the 'Hazardous' bracket, but was that category created to alleviate panic? If you look at it carefully, we already have reached hazardous levels in most areas, and shutting down Port Klang and Kuala Selangor is just the first step; although if you look at it properly, those two locations have already went off the chart in the AQI readings. How soon will we be informed of the exact dangers that hang over us like the plague? Will surgical masks save us then? Or just like any other year will we just sit tight and hope it blows over? What of the long term effects that follow?

Simply too many questions and not enough answers.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Code Red, people

If I had written the other day about how bad the haze was, it would have considerably worsened as I write now. Approaching and exceeding the danger levels, there doesn't seem to be any panic at all except for the constant front page exclusives. What did we get actually? First was a couple of pictures, then an apology from Indonesia, and only yesterday was the readings officially released (after how many years?).

Sidewalk cafes emptied out, and masks being sold in huge quantities that demand exceeds supply. Only now are people questioning, and when a large group of people start questioning the whys then a fraction of the people will get angry because of the lack of transparency, the lack of action. It seems as though we have a serious crisis on our hands, the air outdoors is almost unbreathable, and yet schools continue to open, awaiting for the Education minister's response on whether schools should be closed or not. I shudder to think that the classes are held without enclosures and the haze circulating thru the ceiling fans as the kids actually have to try to pay attention in class.

And yet there is no foreseeable action from any parties. On one hand you get the Indonesian government assuring us that they are doing what they can to stop it, extending their apologies. Well, I suppose its not the right thing to tell them what to do, but if their actions, or inactions affect our people then who is responsible for any form of action? Are we right to voice our opinions? Where is the voice of leadership to tell us that everything is going to be alright and that all measures are currently being deployed? Every day I open the newspaper, all I get are photos, and virtual silence. This silence is almost as unbearable as inhaling the pollutants I'm imagining coating my lungs as they prepare to shut down and die.

Try listening to Singapore radio or even international news, you'd have slightly more information on how drastic this is being viewed at an international level, and yet somehow we are shielded from the sense of urgency the media fails to deliver.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Global warming

It was 37 degrees Celsius out today.

Which on any scale is massively hot. You don't see it but you definitely feel it. The haze that's brought in from Sumatra and peat fires in our country even have formed a seriously disturbing blanket over our heads and trapping us in with all the heat that cannot escape.

Everywhere I turn I see sickly people, coughing, sneezing. Watery eyes, that sort of thing. I have a theory that when the haze strikes people seem to get more aggressive on the road. Perhaps its the heat that irritates the nerve endings in the brain but they do tend to facilitate near-death maneuvers on the road in an attempt to get to their destination quicker.

But at the end of the day, there's only one thing that resonates in my mind.

It was 37 degrees out.

But how could it be?

I remembered when I was young my mom's car had a stick on thermometer in the car. It was one of those plastic ones with the mercury level in the centre that you just stick with the supplied double sided mounting tape on your car's A-pillar, and everyday we'd check to see how hot the day was. I remembered that once it touched 30 we'd be complaining about how hot the car is, and before we get in we're water the car, literally. If we take that into consideration, that would mean that our climate has increased nearly 1 degrees Celsius yearly, more rapidly over the recent years.

Which doesn't make any sense, because by the time I reach 50 we'd all have to live in climate-controlled enclosures because its gotten too dangerous to even step out and smell the fresh air. What fresh air? We would be entirely dependent on nanoclusters to refine the air we breathe. Have we progressed so quickly? Development can take place rapidly but restoring nature will definitely lag behind indefinitely no matter how concerned a few organizations get. Humans react as a whole entity so unless something is killing or affecting us by the masses only then will something be done. But isn't decisions like that to change the mindsets of people be left best to the leaders of the masses? Such is a terrible loss for one not to posses a gift of foresight.

Welcome to our future. I do need another bath.