Being Air Aware: Beards, Birkenstocks and Breaking Wind

(Or How to Channel Your Inner Eco Worrier)

I have a friend at UNICEF who sent me details of a report they’re launching today, here’s the video:

The headline is that 17 million babies under the age of 1 breathe toxic air and that this stunts brain development at a critical time.

Now I’m not exactly an eco-warrior – I’ve been known to sport a beard and Birkenstocks but rarely together and never with socks. I drive a diesel SUV (bought back when the government said it was OK…). Equally, I thought, it sounds like something that happens on the other side of the world and I already do my bit for Red Nose Day. So I wasn’t going to write about it. But, I thought, that’s a pretty horrific stat. So I did some research.

Turns out that whilst the problem is worst in South East Asia, the UK’s not exactly The Shire. London’s about 1,300th out of 3,000 cities worldwide, Glasgow’s pretty bad and even the leafy suburb I live in is above the recommended WHO limit. So it’s in the unashamedly (very British) spirit of Nimby that I write this post.

In a year when Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement, a week when he massively downsized two national parks in Utah and at a time when our Government is wearing Brexit blinkers, the environment is more neglected than ever. And, let’s be honest, it’s always been the ‘middle child’ of political issues.

So it’s down to us as the nurturers of the next generation to at least hand over a world that doesn’t look like this:


I figure there’s not much we can do on a global level but air quality is something that affects us all and UNICEF says there are a few small things we can do to nudge change:

  • Make sure our kids grasp green from an early age and I don’t mean Hulk – they’re the future and they’re inquisitive about EVERYTHING (just read our Questiontyme posts…) so we need to build on what school already does to make them aware of the environment and push them into positive behaviour (lights, taps, food waste, etc);
  • Be more engaged – we don’t need to be Eco Warriors as much as Eco Worriers, stressing a bit more about the decisions we make at a family level (my next car will be electric or at least hybrid, for example) and then make a bit of noise (not too much, we’re British) to show the government we care (and that we’re watching);
  • Be air aware – this ISN’T about identifying who’s farted (fellow parents of two boys will relate to this), but about checking out your local air quality (go here to find out, believe me it’ll be worse than you expect) because it may shock you into a few changes to your own behaviour (and I don’t mean breaking wind less).

The environment’s too big an issue for our lifetime but simple changes can give our kids (and theirs) a head start in making sure they don’t all have to move to Mars in 100 years.

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