We will never regulate what we can't see or feel.
That's been one of the defining challenges of the environmental movement. Because many of the emissions damaging our planet and endangering our health are largely invisible, there's a tendency by voters and legislators alike to ignore them and focus on more immediate issues like jobs, crime or the economy.
When smog does get so bad that daily life is affected, we quickly see politicians scrambling to take action. But what if we could find other ways to make the problem more visible before it gets so bad, or to understand what air pollution looks like on the other side of the world?
That's the idea behind the World Air Quality Index's (WAQI) new map that shows real-time pollution information across the entire world, rating air quality according to the traditional 0-500 AQI scale, which goes from "good" to "hazardous" based primarily on the count of PM2.5 particulate matter in the air.
Air quality index key (Photo: waqi.info)
So next time you see headlines highlighting "off-the-charts" pollution levels or cities making public transit free due to unusually high emissions, you can jump online and see where those emissions are and how far they spread.
At the time of this writing, word from the BBC is that Southeast Asia is currently up in arms about forest fire-related emissions drifting over from Indonesia. Check out the WAQI map right now and you can see some solid chunks of orange and red purple stretching from Indonesia northwards.
It's all interconnected — and now we can see it.