1.8 billion people under the age of 15 breathe air that is so polluted it risks their health and development. Ulaanbaatar – home to half of Mongolia’s three million population - is one of the most polluted capitals in the world. On the coldest days of the year, daily average of PM2.5 pollution levels reach 687 micrograms per cubic meter — 27 times the level WHO recommends as safe.
This group of 10 young people from Mongolia were selected among 700 who participated in an essay writing competition nationwide to promote acquisition of sustainable development thinking and values by children and youth, raise young people’s voices, and instill knowledge and awareness on protecting oneself from air and environmental pollution. You can read some fragments of their essays below.
E. Suvdanchimeg, Orkhon province, 17
Clean air is the life foundation and its soul. It is unfortunate that these days clean air has abandoned us. We live and breathe poisoned gas but not air. Should we just sit around this situation? Or should we come to terms with it?
Since air pollution affects all ages equally from children to elderly it seems as if invisible and rapid process of humanity extinction has started. It is saddening to think that our little brothers and sisters in their mother’s womb are suffering the consequences of harmful acts of shameless people. Can you imagine that fetus is born and fed with smoke?
It is determined that air pollution not only negatively affects health but also causes brain damage, decreases concentration, changes personality, hinders cognitive development and study skills. If this situation continues, one day we will be deprived of future generation, thousands of our children will be dead, people will be unhealthy, and we will be living in destroyed city with no possibility to laugh...
If we jointly implement the measures like this we can fully protect ourselves, our future generations and environment. I think that young people’s voice and participation is very important. The additional appeal is to wear face masks that can protect you in present time from air pollution. At least your throat will not sting. I am full of hope that the time will come soon to breathe with full lungs. Until then, wear face with right filters.
If main measures mentioned in this essay are implemented timely, you can protect yourself from air pollution.
P. Mungunzul, Zavkhan province, 17
The words of the great poet Ch.Chimid “I was born in herder’s house with smell of dung smoke...” are deep in our hearts as Mongolians are raised in air filled with luxury smell of smoke and taana. But in recent years, we smell coal smoke and blue smoke of dung has become our little dream.
Nature and air form together a magic foundation of life, space for endless phenomena and things, their existence and destiny, patterns of change influenced by earth gravity. Although the thing that makes us dream of dung smoke that is called “Air pollution” is known to anyone, they don’t seem to understand its deep meaning. Air pollution in both urban and rural areas is the change of characteristics of the atmosphere due to various dust and substances caused by the humans and living things.
While rural areas are less polluted than urban areas, every year the amount of dust in springe and drought in summer is increasing. This causes the deterioration of herders’ livelihoods prompting them to move to urban areas and, thus, contributing to higher air pollution.
The philosopher William James was not wrong. When problems in the living environment are resolved, the individuals not only think about their future generations but also protect themselves from the pollution.
Thus, the time has come for our blue spotted nation to think once and consider twice.
P. Egshiglen, Ulaanbaatar City, 16
I have learned about air pollution in recent years from mass media. At our summer house the air which is clean in the morning becomes grey and full of smoke in the noon when pollution comes from the city. In the morning when I travel by bus to my school, I smell smoke and my throat stings. The same thing happened at my summer house. Therefore, I understood that clean air is polluted by the smoke that contains multiple chemical substances. At our chemistry class we learned scientific concept of air composition.
Let us participate actively in tree planting and growing grass in spring and autumn near our homes to reduce air pollution; travel outside of Ulaanbaatar city in any season in the nature together with the family members to improve our health and resistance to disease. My grandfather teaches me that “Children need to be healthy and strong to protect themselves from any form of air pollution.”
I think that air pollution has negative consequences and poses a threat to everyone’s health and well-being. We should be vigilant as doctors, teachers always remind us about it. It is important to learn to protect ourselves from this danger. Let us pay attention to our personal hygiene and wear face masks when it is polluted!
G. Lkhagvasuren, Ulaanbaatar City, 18
I believe that “Knowledge is Power”. In order to become knowledgeable I follow my grandfather’s teaching to “to grow into mature person with right upbringing, learn to do anything from my heart sincerely which will help me to study and overcome any issues in my life”. To be strong in my view is to live in healthy and secure environment and acquire happiness by creating positive things in my own and others’ lives.
Inspired by my desire to learn I get up in the morning. However, a thick fog like smoke does not allow me to see things beyond the next building and I walk to school in the mask, closing my mouth, chocking, and coughing, watching people walking fast and feeling pity for them, and thinking how to get rid of the smoke that stings my little lungs. It would have been so much useful if I thought about my lessons rather than smoke, at least memorizing one foreign word! While following my parents’ and doctors’ advice to wear good quality standard face masks can protect me, I often think and feel with my entire body that air quality* is not individual but everyone’s problem. That is why I thought about air pollution more than about my studies and worried about protecting myself and others.
Since everyone in the city breathes the same air, air pollution is a public issue. While I can protect myself from air pollution, the social consequences will affect my life through the costs of community treatment, sorrow and loss and other negative effects that are borne by my parents, through the taxes they pay. Thus, air pollution is not an individual problem but a public health issue. The key to reducing air pollution is everyone’s effort.
Therefore, I will study better to become a good specialist to protect public health, to vote for brothers and sisters who can govern my country and the city genuinely with scientific knowledge. Everyone needs to understand the importance of protecting the health of the community as a whole and, as a minimum, each household should use only one car, and refrain from using old, imported cars. These are the simple actions that need to be taken timely so that we protect ourselves and others from air pollution.
D. Byambadorj, Ulaanbaatar City, 17
Some people say that air pollution is the same as before while others consider it has improved. In my view, with the onset of winter the same grey smoke covers Ulaanbaatar city like a blanket. We understand that air pollution affects not only human health but also environment, evident in decrease of green zones, increase of sand and dust, reduction of water amounts and extinction of animal species.
Should we tolerate this situation? No! We, children can join our voices against air pollution and protect ourselves.
Therefore, I propose to focus on the following measures to protect ourselves:
When we walk outside, children should sort and put waste in the bins. Then, adults can collect it and dispose with the use of environmentally friendly technologies. This will help in reducing smoke and pollution, and we can breathe clean air.
We should think well when to open our windows at home, at school and dormitory, and do not open it at nights with high smoke. Also, we need to put air purifiers in the room as a measure to protect ourselves from pollution. However, not all households can afford to buy equipment. In this case, we should clean our homes with soap and grow plants. This is what we do at our dormitory.
We should encourage each other and propose to our parents, sisters and bothers not to drive for at least 2 days a week which will help in reducing car emissions. We should take measures collectively and use bikes instead of cars and do more walking.
We should tell our parents that studying at home in countryside is as good as studying in Ulaanbaatar. This will help in reducing crowdedness in Ulaanbaatar and related accumulation of waste and cars. Studying in countryside will be also beneficial for our health as we will be far from polluted air.
Let us make efforts to protect ourselves from air pollution by paying proper attention to our food and nutrition, eating more dairy products, vegetables, and wearing warm clothes, exercising to improve our immunity and avoid getting flu.
A. Gansukh, Gobi-Altai province, 15
I took a break from the row of my thoughts and observed the surrounding. The window curtains of the small wooden house are waving in the wind flow. It seems that window behind curtains is open and I lie for a while. Awaken, I get up and see the room full of blue smoke and soot on the floor. Surprised and frightened I run through the soot on the floor and look through the window. Can you imagine what I saw?
The ozone layer has been depleted, and ultraviolet radiation have penetrated the earth. Nothing is visible beyond 2 meters. I felt nauseous by breathing the air and coughed at once. I closed the window and went to the bathroom. As I looked myself in the mirror, I noticed that my flawless skin turned into a 70 year old person’s one. I came to the future acquiring some form of allergy. I remember that things were different before. The earth was full of trees, bushes and flowers and we enjoyed going to countryside breathing fresh air. We forgot the times when children played outside for long hours. Now my mouth is closed by the mask with filter, the sadness is filling me and joy of breathing fresh air by children lasts only few minutes.
Due to air pollution, the ozone layer has been depleted and ultraviolet radiation dried rivers and waters. Humans look ugly, starveling and have a weak immunity. Although researchers sought many ways, it has become too late. Reproductive cells of pregnant women transformed, and they started giving birth to children with disabilities and intellectual impairments. The government takes taxes for breathing fresh air for few minutes. The people who cannot pay such taxes cannot breathe a moment.
The precious and pristine groups of trees preserved by some countries cannot even be compared to gold and diamonds. Rare acid rains cannot help.
The greenhouse gas and air pollution left unattended in 21st century has deprived us of four seasons. To say bluntly, this world is collapsing because our environment is irreversibly destroyed.
I wish all of this is only a dream. I WOKE UP dizzy and blacked out. It was, in fact, my dream. At this moment I felt so good as never before. I can now warn everyone.
U. Uyanga, Ulaanbaatar City, 16
The world is changing fast as time goes on. As humanity evolves, we can navigate our lives with ease... There are multiple sides to any story and it just depends on how you look at it. Air pollution is one of those issues. Air is gas substance that is foundation of human, animal and plant’s life.
Why should we protect ourselves from air pollution? We should not understand that air pollution is only a smoke. It includes dust, dust particles, industrial emissions, car emissions, smell from the waste treatment plant. While air pollution is common in places with higher concentration of the population and industries, it can be also seen in small villages. Air pollution affects human life in direct and indirect way.
In my view, to reduce Ulaanbaatar city air pollution we need to reduce city population, replace ger areas with apartments, reduce number of vehicles, and solve properly the issue of waste treatment plant. Currently, majority of Ulaanbaatar city consists of ger areas and there are 496 thousand vehicles. If we can reduce these numbers by half, the reduction of air pollution will be inevitable. There is no need to wait for the government decisions to protect ourselves from air pollution. Simple changes in the lifestyle are sufficient. Therefore, let us do everything possible to protect ourselves from air pollution and live long and happy lives.
D. Ariunjargal, Bayankhongor province, 18
No act goes without consequences. Evolving society and excessive use of technology is leading to many issues including air pollution or smoke. Nature is like a mirror – what we do to it has a way of coming back on us. I think that problems we face, especially air pollution, soil pollution is a price we pay for our wrongdoings and damaging our environment.
What is role of air why we need it? Can we live well when air is polluted? The research by the Public Health Institute answers this question. The results show that a human can live for 50 days without food, 5 days without water but only 5 seconds without oxygen. The conclusion is that air is a foundation of life. While we say that water is a treasure, it seems that air is more important than water.
Let us stop waiting and criticizing but start acting for our children rather than for the money. Let us find solution together. After long thinking we can decide to solve the issue of heating by the renewable energy sources and reduce burden of electricity costs on population. It is hard to start but we should, nevertheless, confront the difficulties. We do not have other choice. If we do not have courage to start big things we could never succeed. We should remember that acts of ordinary citizens are important and be more responsible for our actions. We can and we will find together solutions.
A. Amarjin, Ulaanbaatar City, 18
Our life starts with breath and ends when we stop to breathe. The air provides body with oxygen, takes part in metabolism, heat regulation and other bodily functions. It is interesting that air is composed of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and other chemical elements. A human can live without food for several days, without water for several hours and will die in moments without air. Thus, we can understand how useful air for our health and survival is.
The methods to reduce air pollution include the use of improved fuel, reduction of heat loss, use of electrical and oil heaters in winter. It is particularly important to create green spaces in proximity to homes and offices. In Ulaanbaatar city, the allocation of 3,2 square meters of green space per one person is 5-6 times less than standard level. Reduction of air pollution by planting trees and bushes is most cost-effective, feasible method that can involve highest number of people.
It is amazing that one hectare of forest can purify 18 cubic meters of air and absorb 30-35 percent of smoke. First, let us strive for clean environment first and then work towards it together. Attitude is manifested in thoughts and consolidated by actions. “Clean air is a healthy future”. But some people aloofly think “Let them use public transport, let them burn smoke-free fuel, let them plant trees, let them put the garbage in the bins”.
I believe we can clean not only air but society from pollution and build healthy and happy future if we realize today, clear our minds and act rather than talk. Health is our asset.
N. Munkhmandakh, Ulaanbaatar City, 18
Technological progress is, obviously, one of the main achievements of humankind development. However, everything has positive and negative sides like two sides of the coin.
As centuries and days go by the technological progress advances but at the same time our blue earth is getting covered by dust, Ulaanbaatar is becoming an Utaanbaatar city as though hidden in the fog. In the past, our ancestors had wars and battles but in no times, we were so harsh to our environment and earth. We should return to mother earth the love that she gave us. In my view, we can do two main things. One of them is correcting our previous mistakes with the use of technological advancements and technical solutions. On the other hand, we should try to stop using items that consume excessive energy, electricity and pollute environment. This way we can build eco life which is helpful not only to our earth but also ourselves.
Air pollution has detrimental effect on both the humans and the nature. Maybe you think “It is too late; nothing will change even if I do something”. But we can change the world with everyone’s participation and contribution. There is a saying “One person is for all; all people are for every person”.