September 29, 2015
Perspective is a funny thing- it makes for funny decision making. Years ago when I lived in Mumbai, India I visited Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and thought it so clean and easy to get around. Eight years later I moved to Kuala Lumpur from Berlin, Germany and I was surprised to find it felt really polluted some days and getting around in much of the city is really time-consuming because of traffic and poor infrastructure.
At this time of year this part of the world sufferes from “haze”, which is what the pollution drifting in from burning peat fields and palm trees is called. We missed one day of school last week because the air pollution levels were so high. This weekend it was even worse. The local schools announced Sunday afternoon that they would be closed on Monday and one by one the private schools joined in. Sunday evening my school announced they would be closed, but that staff and faculty had to report. Monday morning we were presented with the need to develop “virtual school” plans in case of future haze days. We all worked from a common template and each grade level team had to agree on the work set. We created a plan for the next day with Language Arts, Math, and Social Studies (and the PE, World Language, Music and Art teachers added on). Today (Tuesday) school was back on, but by afternoon the haze seemed back in full force. On future haze days the plan is that students will stay home, while staff and faculty report for a full day at school. We have to post our haze day plans by 9:30 AM and then are on duty from 9-11 and 1-3 to answer queries from parents and students. I wish that we could do this part from home- it seems like we need to be protected from the haze as well. Our set work is supposed to cover 2 hours, which means that we will all still feel “behind” if we have to use many haze days. Of course we would all rather be at school with the students in an unpolluted environment.
When I think about how hard this is I think about people who are faced with severe pollution every day- I do not know how they do it. My eyes are itchy and burn, my skin feels horrible, my breathing is labored, I am coughing with a sore throat. With my colleagues we are talking about what we can do. We are trying to learn more about companies that we can support that do not mistreat the environment in this way. We are learning to make more informed decisions about the prooducts and services we purchase. We are looking at labels more carefully. We are asking questions. “Act local, think global” is taking on new meaning for us.
Let’s hope that these polluted days are the exception and not the new norm. I want to go back to my original perspective on KL!