Q : What are some of the ways the average citizen can prevent and combat the pollution in our cities?
A : As citizens we can do lots of things to reduce pollution in our cities and in us! Reduce consumption!! Everything we use and eat, with the exception of the air we breathe and the water we drink, is processed, manufactured and transported to us. Since our consumption of “stuff” (everything from food to soap to TVs) causes pollution locally, regionally and often globally, the simplest way to combat pollution is to reduce how much stuff you buy and use! Resist the pressure to define yourself in terms of the latest fashion & electronic gizmos. When you buy stuff, go for locally made, high quality goods that haven’t travelled half way around the globe and won’t fall apart in a few months. The same goes for food – local is best! Remember, it’s not just what we discard, but all the waste that has gone into producing and transporting the stuff we buy. When you buy organic foods, you not only experience the minimal (and unproven) health benefits of lower pesticide residues in food, but you improve the health of farm workers and agricultural environments that have the highest exposure to pesticides.
Note that recycling is not the best way to reduce what goes into the landfill, since recycling takes a lot of energy and resources. There is either little or no net environmental benefit to recycling. By far the best thing to do to reduce pollution is to reduce consumption!!! The same applies to biofuels – there is little or no net environmental benefit from using biofuels. There is definitely the important down-side of using much-needed food to feed our cars rather than people. The better option is to drive less or not at all!!
Just as important as reducing our consumption is voicing our will through our democracy at all levels -- cities, provinces and the nation. Questioning politicians, industrialists, researchers and others, informing yourself, joining and even working with an environmental group are all critically important for combatting pollution.