Data Visualization

Blog of the Data Visualization & Communication Course at OSB-AUB

This is my favorite part about analytics: Taking boring flat data and bringing it to life through visualization” John Tukey

Polluted Skies and Sources Drying Up: The Levant Region and Air Pollution

Polluted Skies and Sources Drying Up: The Levant Region and Air Pollution

Our planet’s sustainability is being adversely affected by environmental pollution. Pollution is the result of hundreds of years of accumulated human activities. As humans evolved, so did their actions, wants and needs. This led to the evolution of industries, equipment, and tools to meet those needs. Industrialization, transportation, illegal fishing, among other activities are some of the main causes of pollution.
With the rise of global concern about the severity of pollution on Earth, first-world countries started implementing some regulations to control pollution. Furthermore, the UN has multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim at reducing pollution globally. Third-world countries don’t have this luxury as they face multiple obstacles to limit and fight pollution: low-income levels, high improvement costs related to providing better alternatives, political factors, and others. The levant region is a great example of an area blessed with different resources but ranks high in terms of pollution when compared to first-world countries. All the countries in this region have access to at least one of different energy resources (water, agricultural land, oil, etc.). On the other hand, they have gone through or still going through wars/foreign occupation, had economic collapses and have corruption in their governments. These factors have forced these countries to focus on providing for the needs of their populations regardless of the consequences on the environment.

The Levant at a Glance:

The map below shows how over a 10-year period (2005-2015), the annual exposure to air pollution has increased in these five countries. When globally countries are moving towards alternatives, the region is still being exposed to air pollution at an increasing rate. According to the World Bank, “Air pollution levels in MENA’s largest cities are among the highest in the world, with the average urban resident breathing in air that exceeds by more than 10 times the level of pollutants considered safe by the WHO”

Furthermore, we can see below that the average renewable energy consumption in these countries is between 1% to 17% of total energy consumption, whereas the global average is around 30% with the first-world countries going over the 40% mark.

Using clean, renewable sources of energy drastically improves the quality of air. The Levant has an abundance of renewable energy sources that they are failing to utilize due to multiple reasons. Liquid fuel consumption has been on the rise and the CO2 emissions have been on an increasing trend since the 1960s, and if drastic action is taken immediately, the living conditions in these countries will worsen further and impact the health of the population.

What Should We Do?

Actions are needed to prevent further degradation of the quality of air we breathe. Governments should start by enforcing taxes on companies with direct air pollution impact and emission standards should be enforced more strictly. This would provide a control on pollutants and also provide the government with a source of income to reinvest in the country. There also needs to be alternatives to usual transportation options and prioritize cleaner alternatives. Promoting the use of electric/hybrid vehicles, scooters and bicycles over common fuel vehicles would also help clean the air. Finally, countries should utilize their respective available resources to produce clean energy, be it with solar, air or hydropower to create renewable energy without the reliance on fuel and gas which are becoming scarce, expensive, and are still polluting.


For an interactive experience with the visuals, use the below:


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