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#PROJECTPLANETTALKS: Go Green, Breathe Clean: All About Deforestation and Air Pollution

A silhouette of nuclear power plants releasing smoke into the air
Indonesia has the third-largest rainforests in the world

Source: Vitaly Vlasov [9]

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Keeping it straight forward, Indonesia has one of the worst air pollution conditions in the world. Though quarantine measures have allowed us to breathe a little bit easier for the past couple of months, it’s not enough and finding a real solution is crucial.

Why air pollution is so bad in Indonesia?

Before we get into the tips and tricks on how to have cleaner air, we need to dig in the root of this foggy problem.

Well, there are five major causes of air pollution here in Indonesia:

  1. Motor engines cause 75% of the air's pollution since they emit a lot of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide and other harmful pollutants.

  2. Electricity use in Indonesia heavily relies on coal, oil and gas, and this produces more harmful chemicals!

  3. Factories and burning trash ruin air quality. The smoke emitted from burning trash and factories carries chemicals such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the air, which entails promoting air pollution [1].

  4. Farming and agriculture take up massive land areas to make space to grow and breed livestock. In the case of the Amazon rainforest, 80% of its deforestation was done to make space for cattle ranches [2]. Also, the agriculture industry has the habit of using pesticides/insecticides for their crops, further exposing the air to harmful chemicals.

And last but not least….deforestation.

Here’s an irony: Indonesia has the third-largest rainforests in the world (yay!), yet its deforestation rate is also among the highest (what?). Indonesia has burned off a total of 2.6 million hectares of forests, where 857 756 hectares were burned around the end of September 2019 [3].

Worse, 70-90% of it is illegal forest burnings (oh no!). Burning down the forests releases carbon dioxide to the air from the fire and from the trees too!


What does this mean for our health, community and environment?

Air pollution can lead to coughing, breathing difficulties and long-term illnesses such as diabetes [4], cardiovascular diseases [5], and skin cancer [6].

Many studies show that people with lower socioeconomic status and minority populations are disproportionately exposed to air pollution and more vulnerable to its adverse health impacts as they are constantly inhaling pollutants [7].

Sadly, the negative impacts of air pollution do not stop at humans; our environment is bearing the brunt as well. Have you wondered why some days the sky looks more grey than blue? Well, that's the smog effect, my friend, and it happens when the air pollution is worse that day.

Perhaps the most prominent example is climate change. Though many living things emit carbon dioxide when they breathe, humans have pumped enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the past 150 years to raise its levels higher than they’ve been for hundreds of thousands of years, all of which contribute to global warming [8].


What can be done?

A row of windturbine nearby a body of water
If we all put in the effort to improve our air quality, the positive impact will grow bigger and bigger.

Source: Jem Sanchez [10]

Small actions can create a big impact. Think of it as a ripple effect: if we all put in the effort to improve our air quality, the positive impact will grow bigger and bigger. Here are several actions that we can take every day to improve the air quality around us:

  • Reduce the use of motor engine vehicles

  • Stop burning trash

  • Save electricity

  • Eat more plant-based foods

  • Reduce the use of products that contributes to deforestations (such as papers and palm oil)

  • Pushing the government to make stricter laws to help the environment

Like many other problems in the world, air pollution would not be solved overnight. But like we said earlier, our actions, no matter how small, can make a bigger impact than we think. As we continue to educate ourselves and slowly change to more eco-friendly ways, we'll breathe sweet, clean air again!





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