How did watching Korean dramas get me thinking about air and water quality in Massachusetts? Let me tell you.
During the pandemic, I dove into the treasure trove of Korean dramas on Netflix. After watching several, I started recognizing the sounds of certain words. I began matching them up phonetically with their English meanings from the subtitles and keeping a written notebook. I wondered about the daily lives of regular South Koreans and wanted to expand my vocabulary beyond written scripts.
YouTube provides an easy gateway into people’s lives. After watching many videos, I learned that South Koreans are very aware of fine dust. The first few times I heard it mentioned, I didn’t think anything of it. However, it was repeated so often I could no longer ignore it. I wondered, “Is this a thing?”
The vloggers I’ve watched check daily dust levels, wear masks outside, and often keep their windows closed. A Korean vlogger now living in the UK, remarked on the clear skies without fine dust. It’s definitely a thing.
Now that I think of it, I don’t recall any dramas mentioning fine dust. Sometimes you find what you’re not looking for.
A not so quick search revealed an article giving insight and noting the health hazards when fine dust particulate matter (PM) reaches certain levels. Since I’m interested in visiting South Korea at some point, I’ll probably do what the locals do and wear a mask.
In my normal daily life, I hadn’t thought about PM levels too much. Then early this summer, because of the wildfires in Canada, the Boston area received air quality warnings and advisories. Was this like the fine dust in South Korea?
I’ve been very COVID cautious compared to most and only stopped wearing a mask indoors this past winter, after the numbers dropped. Rising numbers still have me reconsidering.
As I’m writing, I looked up the air quality in Quincy a few times. Over the course of about 15 minutes, it changed from moderate to good. The moderate PM2.5 reading is “2.9 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value.” Should I be wearing a mask? I don’t know. I’m doing what the locals do and that appears to be nothing. Overall, we’re mask averse in this country and seem to live in perpetual denial.
But it’s not just air quality causing concern. It’s also the ocean. This summer, it seems like far more beaches than usual in Massachusetts have been closed for extended periods of time due to high levels of dangerous bacteria. That’s not even considering microplastics found in the water.
Then we have extreme heat causing wildfires. This record-breaking heat forcing people to remain indoors could be impacting mental health as well. Most of us have heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and how it impacts some during winter months. A summer version exists too. With wildfires in Hawaii forcing so many to lose their homes, some don’t even have the luxury of being indoors. Heat is becoming increasingly deadly, yet FEMA has never issued a disaster declaration due to heat.
Climate change is real. It’s happening now and seems that it will only get worse unless everyone in the world gets on board with solutions.
Hadassah Margolis will teach a new course at Brandeis University this fall called Climate Concerns: Eco-Anxiety, Grief, and Resilience. It will focus on wellness in the face of eco-anxiety. I’m glad I’m not alone in my feelings of environmental angst and that more people are talking about this. Misery may love company, but that doesn’t help the bigger problem. I wonder what solutions may be found in this classroom.
I’ve heard people describe the years we have left in our lives as the number of summers. As I inch closer to the end of my 50s, thoughts like this are more on my mind. How many summers do I have to enjoy carefree days out in nature? A walk in the woods by a pond or a simple beach picnic. How do we stay optimistic?
Some recent news inspires. In Brazil, the Wari’ people sought help protecting the Komi Memem River. Legislation passed giving the river personhood protection rights as a living entity. It’s a step in the right direction.
Michael J. Fox said, “With gratitude, optimism is sustainable.” Which feels like grounding in the present moment. And remembering that there are still a few more days left in this summer.