“Today I stepped outside for the first time for a very long time,” one of my Facebook friends wrote on her wall. “and guess what! I could smell the air!” she wrote. The post was part of her daily chronicles describing her experience while being quarantined as a result of COVID-19 in New Jersey. I can smell the air! What a simple, yet so powerful and meaningful exclamation.
Air Pollution kills Millions of People Every Year
As today is World Earth Day, her post got me thinking. What is so exceptional about being able to smell the air? Isn’t that supposed to be the normal situation? Not in our modern life, it is not! In fact, smelling clean air has become a phenomenon in recent times, where all we could smell is gas emission from factories, motor vehicles and other machinery deemed so necessary for the privileged life we have grown accustomed to. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills an estimated seven million people every year. Their data further shows that 9 out of ten people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.
It Seems Like Earth is Taken a Break From Humans
Sadly, the smell of air my friend was finally able to smell did not come as a result of greater awareness or a decision taken to be more kind and friendly to our earth. It came as a result of “Stay at Home” orders enforced nationwide to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. As people stopped going to work, emissions have dropped a great deal. It seems like the earth has decided to take a break from humans and their doings.
But what really got me contemplating was this question: does it really take a pandemic for us to realize what damage we have been inflicting on our environment? Does it need such a high death toll to accelerate actions that must be taken in order to save our earth? How many more droughts, natural disasters, famines and depletion of natural resources does it take for us to take a step back and stop our wasteful and harmful habits once and for all?
Allah Has Created This World in Balance. Violating this Balance Can Lead to Disaster
Being a Muslim who was fortunate enough to study the Quran as a child, I loved to read Surat Al Rahman. In this Sura, Allah SWAT clearly says that he has created everything in balance and has ordered his slaves not to mess with this balance “And the sky, He raised, and He set up the balance. So do not transgress in the balance. But maintain the weights with justice, and do not violate the balance.” (55:7,8,9) We have seen with our own eyes what happens when people violate the balance Allah has intended for his creation. The over-consumption, over-exploitation, and overuse of our resources are only some examples of such violations, and the consequences have been devastating. “Corruption has appeared in both land and sea because of what people’s own hands have brought, so that they may taste something of what they have done so that hopefully, they will turn back” (30: 41)
Allah has made us successors on this earth, who have been entrusted to protect, save and sustain a livelihood. Now is the time to live up to our obligation and take action. Now is the time to advocate and call upon decision-makers to take these matters seriously, so that we and our children can smell clean air again!