What does it take to stop accepting pollution as the price of progress?

January 23, 2018

The first time I heard the phrase “pollution refugee” was more than two decades ago, when I lived in Mexico City. My home office sat in a garden of roses and bougainvillea, but it was shrouded in unremitting haze. The city’s air in those days was so contaminated by lead, ozone and other chemicals that birds dropped dead in the smog — and I developed a wheezing cough after games of basketball. On a rare blue-sky day more than a year after I arrived, I gazed, for the first time, at one of the snow-capped volcanoes that rise above the city. Hard to believe: 17,694-foot Popocatépetl had loomed there all along. The next day, the smog returned. I would see the volcano only once more before I moved away.