Feeling Breathless

Last night I had a dream that what was happening in India–the terrible pollution coupled with severe heat wave (the heat is something which India’s Earth Sciences Minister, Harsh Vardhan, has attributed to climate change) had begun to happen in countries where the signs of climate change are less visible, like my own country. In my dream I was trying to run but couldn’t breathe. I had a similar dream years ago, about being in a place where climate change had severely heated that section of the country (which prompted the writing of my novel Back to the Garden; the part where the main character Fran meets Leo is taken from my dream).

Today I came across this article by India Times, which describes joggers and bicyclers feeling breathless in “gas chamber Delhi”. Wearing masks, due to air pollution causing the air quality index to increase to ten times what is considered safe, is a reality that seems like science fiction. While this pollution is not new, it is getting worse. According to the article:

“We have to recognize that people have to live here to demand their right to good health. The government has the duty to protect all. Every third child in Delhi has impaired lungs, what other reason do we need to act against air pollution?” said Anumita Roychowdhury, head of CSE’s Clean Air campaign. No concrete step has been taken to counter Delhi’s air problem so far.

The New York Times recently published an article by Gardiner Harris, a South Asia correspondent whose son got sick due to India’s air pollution. Gardiner and his family had moved to India, and he later wrote:

We gradually learned that Delhi’s true menace came from its air, water, food and flies. These perils sicken, disable and kill millions in India annually, making for one of the worst public health disasters in the world. Delhi, we discovered, is quietly suffering from a dire pediatric respiratory crisis, with a recent study showing that nearly half of the city’s 4.4 million schoolchildren have irreversible lung damage from the poisonous air.

It seems incredulous that such things would exist today. Pollution and climate change are related, but can you imagine the one-two punch people in India are getting now? The backdrop of climate change causing a severe heat wave, which has killed 2,500 so far, on top of the particulate matter in the air requiring masks for people even going outside, much less exercising outside, is surreal.

It is stories like these that really put things into perspective for me. We are getting our own heat wave this weekend, but unlike India’s 47 degree Celsius temperatures, ours will only be around 30. Even that can be dangerous for runners not taking care. Fortunately, we have clean air too, and I can’t help but to be grateful that I ended up here and can walk, breathe, run, and exist in a still healthy climate.

I am finally getting to the portion in my 10K training that is increasing the distance from what I had already been running before the training. Tomorrow’s run is a 50-minute run, my longest yet other than the 10K a few weekends ago, and I’ve been a little nervous about it. However, my husband and I have mapped out a long forested trail along a creek to run in. There’s also a shady trail right up our road, but that’s where bears have been sighted. The creek we’ll run along tomorrow is also nearby. I do feel that my body is adjusting now to running in hotter weather, but this adaption process has been slow. Plunk me into India somewhere or in the southwestern US, and I would not be running I’m sure.

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