Rejoice everyone, the rain is here! The rain is here! Everything is fixed! (“mein ne keha tha na. Aik baarish honay do sab sahi ho jaye ga”)

Indeed, the rain is here and indeed, has washed away the gloom and doom of the smoggy haze that had enveloped Lahore and most of Punjab for the last few weeks. Given the goldfish-like effect the modern news cycle has upon us, a lot of people will likely have forgotten about the creeping terror of the mist in favour of the latest furor surrounding an actress and how she lives her own life. For the rest of us, however, now is the time to take a step back and consider the ramifications of this drastic “new” ”weather” in the coming years.

We’ve all seen the AQI readings, we’ve all seen and read the various reports decrying deforestation, crop burning, India, increased construction and a whole host of other reasons as the cause of this aberrant weather. I’m not going to rehash the same – instead, let’s talk a little about what this year’s smog meant in the larger scheme of things.

First up, just because the visible effects of the smog have vanished doesn’t mean it’s not left its mark on us. Even now, as I type this out I’m wracked by a meaty, chest-straining cough. My parents are similarly spotted walking around the house, breaking into sporadic, discomforting coughing. This isn’t going to change come October/November 2018. The world’s population isn’t going to wake up one day and decide to stop harming the planet. Looking at the positively moronic stance of the US Government (under the frankly dangerous command of Herr Trump) towards the Paris Climate Accord, one can only wonder at the damage they’ll end up doing to everyone in the long run – the US is one of the world’s leading polluters and Trump’s White House seems to consider that as a badge of honour.

Secondly, on gazing inwards, Pakistan doesn’t have much going for it either – yes, our government ratified the Accords as well but since that agreement is more of a scout’s honour agreement than a legally binding one, I don’t see much headway being made to improve the situation here – just look at the unbelievably callous and ignorant way the government handled this year’s smog. Minimal public awareness – they can plaster the city in signs heralding the Chief Minister’s latest sponsoring of an event at the Expo Centre but can’t inform the masses about the hazards of breathing polluted air, no attempt to get our school going children and elderly safe behind gas masks – they can gather nearly a province’s worth of children to set a Guinness record but can’t be mobilised to the same degree to safeguard their health, the list goes on. Will this change come next year’s smog? I think not.

What’s to be done, then? Will we become something akin to the setup of the film “Interstellar”? I hope not! (made for a suitably apocalyptic sound-byte though didn’t it?) What can be done however is to try and create enough awareness for the issue to be taken seriously by the government walas who, I feel, are a primary dispenser of knowledge and prevention about the smog season. Consider the cases of villages and towns beyond the major cities where limited education and internet access means people will not be prepared enough to handle this occurrence next year. Such people depend heavily on their local governments who need to be galavanised by the educated masses into large-scale action. Flyers and gas masks isn’t all that’s needed. Reforestation, eco-friendly practices and reduced carbon footprints are the need of the day and our government and people at large are doing little, if anything, to help ourselves and the rest of humanity. Two simple things that we can do in response to smog:

1 – Plant trees. This is something that we endorse but don’t do it ourselves. We badly need to implant more trees to make up for the forests that we’ve been cutting.

2 – Walk when you can: There’s this weird addiction with luxury because of which even if we’ve to go somewhere within 5 km, yet we take out our car. I know saving time is important but walking decrease your cholestrol levels too so think about the environment and try to walk when possible

There you have it: my smogasbord of thoughts (yes, I went there) on the matter of the smog. Now go and spout some more nonsense about how Verna needs to be banned because we should brush our ills under the carpet and not have them out for everyone to see and comment on.

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