Pollution kills more people each year than war, murder, AIDS or malaria -- about 9 million in 2015 alone, a new and disturbing report says.
The Guardian report to which I've just linked you puts it this way: "Toxic air, water, soils and workplaces are responsible for the diseases that kill one in every six people around the world, the landmark report found, and the true total could be millions higher because the impact of many pollutants are poorly understood."
That report, called "the most comprehensive global analysis to date," came from the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health and was published by The Lancet medical journal.
It should come as no surprise that residents of poor nations are suffering from pollution to a far greater extent than citizens in more developed nations. As The Guardian piece notes, in such countries as India, Chad and Madagascar, "pollution causes a quarter of all deaths."
Some pollution is simply an inevitable result of the fact that humans live on Earth. And we can live healthy lives with some pollution.
But as the environmental movement has taught us over the past 50 years or so, our economic rapaciousness coupled with a carelessness that often is criminal is resulting in an increasingly dangerous planet on which to live. The report said that outdoor air pollution, mostly from vehicles and industry, caused about half of the 9 million deaths a year.
This is an issue that should be -- and sometimes is -- close to the heart of people of faith. The world's great religions teach people to be good stewards of the gift of the Earth and its atmosphere. They teach that all life is sacred, that every individual is of inestimable value.
But if those lessons really resulted in action that honored them, we wouldn't have the problems that this new report details.
The scale of pollution described in the report shows that although even small efforts by individuals help, this is really a broad, systemic problem that requires systemic answers. Turning out electric lights in empty rooms simply won't be enough.
Even so, one question it's important to ask is what your faith community, if you're part of one, is doing to address this problem that is, quite literally, killing us. I hope you'll ask that question this week if you haven't already. And don't take "nothing" for an answer.
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BUT CAN CORPORATIONS PRAY?
A new issue before us is whether a publicly traded corporation can engage in religion. This Christian Century piece explains the matter and how it came about. Thinking of corporations as persons has led to several unwise court decisions, including the Citizens United case. Maybe it's time to quit using that legal corporations-as-persons construct.
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P.S.: The evening of Saturday, Nov. 4, you have a chance to attend a free Bach Aria Soloists concert in Kansas City and, from a guest speaker, hear about J.S. Bach's ideas of theological (and other kinds of) love. All the details you need to know are here. If you go, take good notes. I have a family celebration event to attend that evening.