Air quality is critical. Air pollution is linked to more than six million deaths a year, and it affects everything from the health of our lungs to the health of our planet. So what can be done about it?

One answer is the Clean Air Catalyst, an initiative to improve air quality by understanding local pollution sources, the drivers of emissions, bringing together effective coalitions and searching for solutions. The Catalyst is trialing its work in two pilot cities — Jakarta in Indonesia, and Indore in India.

This podcast looks at how the air pollution problem was first recognized, how it was dealt with in Mexico City, and the participatory science that can help combat the problem, while saving lives and helping the environment in the process.

“You can see it. We have more clear days than we had before. I remember my childhood, when I was young, we used to have bad days the whole year. You now don’t smell the smoke behind the car as we used to do. Some studies have shown that the improvement of air quality citizens have expanded their lifetime by almost three years.”

Beatriz Cardenas, Air Quality Director, WRI Mexico


“Air pollution impacts everybody in a city, but often the poorest folks are subjected to the worst air pollution because of where they live, where they work. In Nairobi the poorest walk, and they walk along highways and they breathe in emissions. They may not have access to electricity so they’re burning biomass when they cook in the evenings. They might work in an industrial zone with factories that are poorly regulated. And so they have these very, very high burdens of air pollution relative to the wealthy.”

Jacqueline Klopp, Co-Director Center for Sustainable Urban Development, Earth Institute, Columbia University


“We call it data-to-action. We’re getting additional data about the pollution at a particular location and the likely sources that are causing that pollution. How do we take that data and translate it to action to reduce that pollution coming from that source? What is it that is causing that source to be polluting? Is it a lack of regulations? Is it a lack of transportation management? Is it simply a lack of enforcement of existing regulations?”

Ramon Alvarez, Associate Chief Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund

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