In her book Choked: The Age of Air Pollution and the Fight for a Cleaner Future, Beth Gardiner makes an interesting point about how as humans we sometimes fail to connect the dots of cause and effect in our lives when it comes to air pollution [but I think also applicable to our lives].

Here is the paragraph I found interesting:

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“You see one person run over in the street and you will never forget it,” observed a Los Angeles environmentalist I met. But thousands dying from the effect of dirty air “will never even faze us.”

He was right.

When smokers succumb, they know their own actions, and those of the tobacco companies that fed their habit, helped bring about their illness.

But, in a world powered by fossil fuels, we all travel from place to place, use electricity, heat our homes, and few of us fully grasp the effects.

The gains that come when air gets cleaner are similarly difficult to see. There’s no doubt reducing pollution saves lives. But those whose years are lengthened, and those who love them, never know it. Emergency room visits are averted and health care dollars stay in pockets, but the line connecting car or power plant regulations with the size of medical budgets is not easy to make out.

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Connecting the dots between our behaviour and the effects our behaviour has on us is often a difficult thing to do, more especially when the effects [the results] are not visible with the naked eye in the short term.

When you say stop smoking it is not good for your health, it is not easy to comprehend the effects of smoking on your health immediately, because the damage does not kill you immediately.

When you say work hard so that you can have a great future, it is not an easy thing to comprehend in the short term because a great future does not happen immediately.

The cars we drive causes air pollution, the polluted air we breathe causes early death.

The cause and effect of this, is simple to follow, but the challenge is convincing people that the cars they love so much causes their early deaths.

The reason it is difficult to connect the dots is because the air pollution does not kill us immediately.

The fact that we can’t see the cause and effect with our naked eyes immediately is what causes us not to have the sense of urgency towards life’s dangers.

Sometimes we just have to believe that our behaviours in the short term will have long term consequences even if we can’t see the cause and effect immediately.

Image by Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz

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