Hazy Shade Of.......
Look around. Skies are Brown.
And the air, is a hazy shade of cinder.
The smell is back.
Anytime we don't have rain for a week, a stinging odor clings to the air.
It comes with the smog.
But we're pretty lucky in Yokohama.
The pollution is worse in Bangkok, Taipei, Manila, or anywhere in China.
How bad is it?
Well, people in Asia don't wear black just because it looks trendy.
On recent trips to China, I had to limit my wardrobe to dark colors as a form of camouflage.
When I sat down outdoors, I'd turn black from the layer of soot that covers everything.
If I brushed against a wall, a pole, or a railing, I'd also turn black.
And when I blew my nose at the end of each day, I saw - black.
I turned it into a game. I'd blow my nose into a tissue and guess what the pattern resembled.
My best guess was cancer.
How bad can it get?
We lived in Singapore in 1997, when the fires of Indonesia burned so badly.
The Great Indonesian Marshmallow Roast, we called it.
Some were small farm fires that got out of control.
But most were profit-driven, corporate-sanctioned barnburners.
A haze index of 100 is unhealthy. We regularly topped that and 200 as well.
Malaysia topped 400. Visibility was measured in meters in some places.
I woke up one night, thinking I smelled an electrical fire.
"Back to sleep," said Angie. "It's just the haze".
One doctor said that a day outside was like smoking a pack of cigarettes - except you didn't look cool because no one could see you.
It was like a 'B'-movie, "Revenge of the Killer Haze", with the noxious yellow smog of Indonesia rising from the dead.
It had all the elements of a classic: The power of nature gone awry, the passive masses, a few lone voices of reason, a government cover up, death and destruction.
All we needed was a hero to save the day.
Sadly, this was not a movie.
But sequels are being made every year.
Unmonitored factory emissions, rampant coal burning, increasing automobile pollution, the reduction of green spaces - all add up to more black patterns in more tissues, all over Asia.
You might wonder what the reaction is.
Loud complaining? Not really.
People cover their mouth, close the windows, and put up with it.
Remember when we used to drink water out of a tap?
Now we happily pay for it.
So, how many years before we pay for clean air?
How many years until Land SCUBA is a weekend recreation activity?
Strap on an oxygen tank and go look for wildlife. Or maybe just some living trees and grass.
Maybe a forest will be as uncommon as a coral reef.
We've adapted to the loss of drinking water.
We've tolerated the decay of the underwater environment.
Will we let the air go next?
In the cities of Asia, we already have.