Reflection on Air Pollution by Fr Hugh O’Donnell

air pollutionFr Hugh O'Donnell is a poet and ministers with the Salesian community in the parish of Sean McDermott Street in Dublin.

Fr Hugh shares the following reflection on air pollution with us:

I thought of a line from Shakespeare’s play, ‘Macbeth’, when I visited friends in the country - ‘heavenly breath smells wooingly here’ – for indeed the sweetness of fresh air and spring and soil and herb made a bouquet for the nose. I had just arrived from Dublin city centre with its fossil-fuelled air and began to wonder what had I been breathing all this time.

Some weeks later in Donegal I found a garden ...' with an air that, in King Duncan’s words (in the same play), ‘nimbly and sweetly recommends itself’ and a robin I took as a good omen of a fellow citizen I could work with, me with a spade, he with an eye for a juicy worm.

And I thought of city dwellers and commuters and of how over five billion of us will never get to taste anything but the world as we have built it with its toxic by-products and chemical waste.

And just as light pollution prevents us from seeing the stars and the wonder that goes with access to that vastness, so air pollution is another subtle form of deprivation, a blunting of sense and soul.

It is ironic that the heavenly air surrounding Macbeth’s castle contrasts so sharply with the evil that lies inside where Duncan will be murdered in his sleep. When you have sipped the nectar of pure air you should know what you have been missing. But, as happens, you forget and go back to sleep again.