Living in a Haze

Guilty or not Guilty

Haze - Clapway

I love this world, but sometimes I hate the people who live in it. I am partially guilty of being one of those people I despise because I did drive a car, and I did leave a car in the jungle. I suppose I meet criminal standards for that. If anyone asks if my story about the jungle car is true I might even deny it; I am that bad. I am a Yankee, and I expect to see the blue sky every day, hear the owls screech at night, breath in fresh air, swim in crystal-clear water, enjoy lakes that do not allow motorized vehicles, and climb mountains to see views of 100 miles or more.

Abyss - Clapway

For the past two years, I have been on a walkabout, which ended up taking me to places that paint an honest picture of how much trouble this world is in environmentally. Mexico was adventuresomely gorgeous. I found places in Mexico like Las Pozas near Xilitla, Cascada de Tamul, El Cielo, the Vera Cruz dunes, San Miguel Allende, and wallowed in the beauty of the country. But living in Tampico, Mexico, day after day, as I slogged through the heat, on the bus, walking to school, or to the gym, I smelled things that I do not want to recall; I saw trash everywhere, and random piles of concrete were common. On my walks, I ran across dead animals and watched or smelled them decompose as a part of my daily routine. Then there was the noise pollution – honking taxi cabs and barking dogs, are constant. Despite that, there was more that I loved about Mexico than I did not like, if I closed my nose and ears. This year I live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I can stand the smell, and KL is developed enough so that I can dodge the trash, and this is not dog country for religious reasons. The taxis do not honk, and the call to prayer five times a day is tolerable.

Haze - Clapway

Here, Indonesia is burning the jungle with such ferocity that a thick haze covers all of Malaysia and Singapore. Today was the first day in two and a half months that I have seen the mountains that surround Kuala Lumpur. Last night was the first time I saw the moon, and when I swam laps in the pool, I actually caught a lungful of air. When the sun rose today, I had to put on my glasses to make sure I was not hallucinating when I saw blue. Today, I can see shadows from the sun, and the blue sky is so beautiful.

The locals tell me that when the monsoons come, the haze blows away. People here treat the haze here like a season. In New England, schools get cancelled for snow and ice conditions. In Malaysia, schools are closed due to the haze.  Not only have schools in Indonesia, Malaysia (four million students), and Singapore closed, the 2015 Swimming World Cup and the Kuala Lumpur Marathon had to be cancelled because of the haze. Wikipedia tells me that the “haze crisis” will cost Indonesia the equivalent to 47 billion USD.

Haze - Clapway

I am pissed at Indonesia for selfishly slashing and burning the jungle for palm oil. I know that the jungles around the world are and have been destroyed by slashing and burning, and I have joined others on the porch gazing at Mt. Monadnock through clear skies, and tsk-tsked those horrible jungle slashers and burners, but I have never been effected by it directly until I landed Malaysia. This has been going on for years, and every year it gets worse, but every year there is another year to follow that is worse.  But like most global issues, if it isn’t right in front of our noses it either doesn’t exist; it’s a lie; it’s not anyone’s problem, or if it is someone’s problem, they have enough money to sweep it aside.

The situation over here is a microcosm of global warming. Once the haze goes away, it will slip from our awareness. Believing that the haze is a serious problem, would mean doing something about it.  Just like believing in global warming would force us to fess up to the phenomenal amount of natural resources and fossil fuels we consume each day. Believing in environmental problems might mean not driving, and turning off our air conditioners, or heaters. So I can be pissed at Indonesia; I can boycott visiting the country; I can refuse to buy palm oil, but honestly it is too late. We should be ashamed of our nasty contributions to this planet’s well-being. Just because we cannot see what comes out of our exhaust pipes, chimneys, and air conditioners, does not mean it is not there.

In 2009, James Balog gave a Ted Talk about global warming that proved that this planet is never going to be the same. We can drive our SUV’s to the recycling center every weekend and feel good about sorting our trash; we can pick up trash on Earth Day, or wash our clothes with biodegradable soap, but the train slid off the track years ago, and we are way beyond putting it back on again. Best to don our face masks, say goodbye to blue skies, crank up the heat or the air conditioner and live inside. We have all heard this gloom and doom before, but not all of us have experienced it. If you don’t believe me, visit Malaysia between September and November, but make sure you bring a face mask if you do.