May 10, 2017

Paying the price for clean air

Paying the price for clean air

 

It’s getting hard to breathe all over the place. In global megacities people can’t go out because of the constant smog. In poorer homes people must get out if they don’t want inhale the dirty smoke from a wood- or kerosene-fired stove that cooks the food and keeps the place warm. Either way, the cost of clean air is high and rising fast.

To add to the bad news, new research shows air pollution attacks not only the human respiratory system but the brain itself. It’s scary stuff: the nano particles attached to air molecules are transported all the way to the membranes in the brain where they prey on our cognitive abilities. We’re only beginning to understand what kind of havoc exactly that wreaks in the long-term, but whatever it is, it’s not good.

What’s the value of clean air? How much would you pay for not having lung or brain damage? To yourself? Your family? Others? The children who can’t choose their surroundings? These are some of the very real and very hard questions. Even under the best scenarios, no governmental action alone is sufficient to turn the situation around. Economic and demographic pressures are just too massive. We need catalysing and booster effects that can only come from entrepreneurial action for scalable impact: we need businesses that make clean air for all.

In affluent parts of the world we can get the job done pretty easily. Though we may not like it, we make the investments and pay the premiums that allow us enjoy shiny clean immediate habitats. That’s not an issue. The issue is what’s beyond my own back yard: until clean air is a global good it won’t be sustainable for anybody. We, who can, need to take more risk to make clean air a reality for everybody. What businesses should we invest in and what products should we buy to ensure clean air for every global citizen? That’s the billion dollar question.  The good news is whoever gets the answer at least somewhat right, will not only enjoy breathing cleaner air, but laugh all the way to the bank, too.

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Written by Ville Luukkanen

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