Best columns: International
Air pollution will only get worse
The Indian Express
New Delhi is choking under a dense cloud of toxic smog, said Darryl D’Monte. Schools were closed last week, flights were canceled, and poor visibility led to car accidents. The rich stayed inside, sucking down pure air through their home filters. Everyone else had to breathe in the thick white haze, an experience akin to smoking 50 cigarettes a day. This smog descends on New Delhi every year as winter approaches, when pollutants settle on the city, mixing with smoke from burning crop waste in neighboring states. And it’s not only the capital: the World Health Organization says 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India. The “public health menace” isn’t just bad for our bodies. It also hurts the economy, through slowed production, soaring hospital bills, and lost tourism. Government intervention is sorely needed. Farmers should be encouraged to recycle waste rather than burning it, and power stations must be cleaned up and strictly regulated. But the main issue is vehicles. The big cities need better public transportation, and particularly green bus systems. Car owners should be discouraged from driving, with drastic increases in parking fees and the adoption of alternate-day restrictions based on license plates. If authorities in the capital fail to implement these commonsense policies, Delhi will remain “the air pollution pariah of the world.”
Forced conformity hurts all
Japan is still a society that ostracizes difference, said the Asahi Shimbun. A high school junior in Osaka is suing the local prefectural government, saying she suffered physical and emotional anguish from its insistence that she color her naturally brown hair jet-black. Her teachers and school administrators, the complaint says, banned the girl from classes and school trips any time her lighter roots showed through. The repeated applications of dye “ruined her hair and caused rashes on her scalp,” and the feeling that she was being punished for her looks damaged her self-esteem. Sadly, hers is not the only such case. Many schools require students to wear their hair black and straight, and “no deviations are acceptable.” Proponents of this policy say that any school that “gets a reputation for being lax” will suffer in status, hurting education and job prospects for all of its students. It’s true that “the tendency to prioritize the group over the individual and discipline over individuality is deeply rooted in Japanese society.” But in this age of globalization, when an increasing number of Japanese students have mixed ethnic backgrounds, we should expect schools to respect each student as an individual. Surely order and group cohesion can be maintained even when a little diversity is allowed.