Today, November 8th 2017, the air quality in Delhi has been declared a public health emergency. Here in Canada, while I breathe effortless regardless the air quality alerts, my cute cute loving little boys are often gasping for air: on summer days when as part of the new normal forest fires rage through the summer months, when inversion systems descend in winter trapping industrial emissions and vehicular exhaust. Like frogs in a pot of increasingly hot water, we seem easily able to dismiss the raging fires. To dismiss the notion that they are caused by climate change or that they are contributing to it. Just as we find quite quotidian, the huge billowing clouds emanating out of the refinery stacks as we pass on our commute between home and work.

In the West, the veneer of capitalism allows us to imagine that we will be protected from climate crisis. Yes, we might be able to stay indoors for a while, with hepa filters running, until the power goes out. Ultimately, we all breathe the same air.

This week, in Dehli, people died of the smog. Some of them catastrophically, in the car accidents caused by the poor visibility. Others, I’m sure, from the smog itself. Air pollution is now listed as one of the top-10 killers world-wide and is the 5th leading cause of death in India.

When we next land in Delhi as a family, will my boys be able to breathe? I imagine myself meticulously packing multiple Ventolin inhalers and steroid pumps for the journey. I also fretfully imagine accidentally or thoughtless or distractedly hurrying out of the house one morning, the family waiting in the car, without bringing along our medical emergency kit, just as one might easily forgot mittens or a cell phone in their rush out the door.

I imagine a crisis–man made or environmental–occurring while we are out.  A riot. A protest. A police barricade. A fight over resources. The declaration of war triggered by climate change. …something that bars us from returning home. A situation that impedes our access to the emergency Ventolin dispensers.

I imagine what would happen to me, if when in a time of crisis, like one Igbo mother in Half a Yellow Sun struggling to survive the civil war, half my children died of asthma.

This too, might become the new normal. I’m working hard to imagine Other possible futures. Alternative energy futures. Feminist futures. Decolonized futures. Just futures. But we also need to consider what it means to carry on doing this environmental justice work knowing full well it might not save us from ourselves. This too, is a potential future.

(Image from Google Search  – Dehli, smog & death – https://www.google.ca/search?q=smog+delhi+deaths&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjj7YzbubDXAhVQxGMKHfpLAkgQ_AUIDCgD&biw=1422&bih=803s)


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© 2019 Sheena Wilson, Associate Professor, University of Alberta
Principal Investigator: Feminist Energy Futures; Future Energy Systems’ Energy Humanities: Speculative Energy Futures and iDoc Projects
Co-founder and co-director of Petrocultures Research Group
Editor-in-chief, Imaginations Journal



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