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A thick smog has blanketed Penang, with visibility less than 1km. Residents of Penang Island have their own air quality indicator: if the imposing Penang Hill at the centre of the island vanishes from sight, you should be concerned!

This smog is the worst it has been for years, perhaps since 1997. Now we hear that the oil palm fires in Indonesia are emitting more greenhouse gases than the entire US economy.

For a deeper discussion of the smog and the oil palm industry, check out agribusiness researcher Khor Yu Leng’s blogs here and here.

This morning, a friend sent me a message saying he feels like choking.

Later, a security guard wearing a surgical mask advised me to wear one before I stepped outdoors. Ironically, a couple of weeks ago, this same guard had told me he was trying to quit smoking! Poor chap.

About an hour ago, a neighbour asked me later why I was sitting outside to read. Everyone quite concerned.

The API reading just after noon for the island? 149. In Kuala Lumpur, it is 154 and in Section 14, PJ, it is 187. You can see the API reading for your area at the same link. (Remember, below 50 is healthy, 51-100 is moderate, 101-200 unhealthy, 201-300 very unhealthy, and over 300 hazardous.)

I hear that with advances in technology, it is not rocket science to obtain accurate API readings: realistic analyses of air quality can be obtained with fairly simple equipment without having to buy ultra-sophisticated and super-expensive equipment. Meanwhile, let’s do a quick poll to find out what you think of our official API readings:

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We shouldn’t have been too surprised by the recent earthquake and tremors in Sabah. There had been ample warning of the prevalence of earthquake faults in the state, and our rescue services have no reason to be unprepared.

The former director of the Minerals and Geosciences Department Sabah, Alexander Yan, had warned, apparently in 2010, that several previously identified active or potentially active faults were confirmed as earthquake-generating faults. He pointed out that “these faults are to be found in the Ranau area within the Central-North Seismic Zone of Sabah, as well as in the Dent-Semporna Peninsula Zone.”

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Photograph: Wikipedia

Four groups of people are likely to be shifting uncomfortably in their seats after Francis, the Bishop of Rome, released his much-anticipated encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si (on Care for our Common Home).