Every Fourth of July I would lie at the bottom of my kayak to watch the fireworks. Explosions consumed the sky, illuminated it with sparks and colors followed by deafening booms that made it nearly impossible to think of anything else. The myriad of colors entranced all its viewers; the whole town was seemingly hypnotized like luring Sirens had decided to move into the skies. But once the finale was over and fireworks no longer flashed, clouds of smoke remained visible in the air. It would only be in the wake of the show that I began to wonder about the extent of damage caused. Ultimately the fireworks would not be too significant in terms of impact, especially given their unfrequent nature, but they ran parallel to many perspectives on common but harmful pollutants.
Pollution does not always look threatening on the outside, making it easy to ignore it and remain blind. People tend to naturally only focus on the problem once it already has escalated to harm. It’s easy to ignore the smog only until it covers the skyline. It’s easy to ignore the harsh air only until stepping outside means respiratory issues acting up the rest of the day. It’s easy to ignore the unnaturally warm air only until people living on islands off the coast are forced inland with the rising seas. Just as the flash of each firework blinds everybody to the smoke discreetly accumulating behind, sightlessness with other pollutants is often repetitive until the results are blatantly and harshly shown. So instead of waiting until the fireworks are over and the aftermath is apparent, it is time to take a different route. One that fixes problems that sometimes are even not yet problems, one that addresses issues rather than addressing the already widespread consequences, and overall one that sees behind the fireworks.