What I want you to know about living through an unacknowledged ecological disaster

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post was submitted by Erin.
Photograph by: Bjorn Tore Okland


The haze has started again… I open my front door and am greeted by the acrid smell of smoke. I check my phone to see just how hazardous the air is to breathe today. THE AIR, people. Something that should be clean and free for everyone. Something I never had to think about when I lived in America.

But I don’t live in America right now. I live in Singapore. We came here 3 years ago for my husband’s job teaching at an international school. We’ve had two children in that time and have adjusted to the constant tropical temperatures that are so different from our Midwestern upbringing. The only seasons here are hot & humid… and hazy. It’s actually something that seems to just be accepted by the people here.

I can’t accept it though. There is something very wrong when I had to flee to nearby Thailand last fall when I was 7.5 months pregnant with my little boy to just breathe some fresh air for a couple weeks.
All I wanted to do was be nesting and getting ready for my baby at home, with my husband. I felt like an environmental refugee. Other expat friends with young children were leaving as well- flying off to Europe, the US, and other places not affected by this haze. No one should have to leave their home in order to have clean air to breathe. No one.

The people of Indonesia have it far worse than I do, particularly the children and the poor. The images have been absolutely heartbreaking. And yet the world media has been almost absolutely silent on the matter.

They are calling it the worst ecological disaster of the 21st century. And yet, I bet you haven’t heard about it in America.

It’s time for you to hear about it now. Please check out this website (I am not at all affiliated with this organization) to educate yourself about this disaster: https://indonesiaburning.com/

And then share this with everyone you know. Write letters. Make your voice heard. This has got to stop.

I want to breathe the air freely again. I want to be able to take my little boy and my sweet baby girl outside without counting the minutes and wondering how much damage I’m doing to them by exposing them to these acrid fumes.



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