An improved economy, yes, but at what cost?

Smart growth, Denver, Colo. style
Smart growth, Denver, Colo. style

In the United States recovery from the Great Recession of the late 2000s has been ongoing. The numbers of unemployed are becoming fewer but the rate still remains at a level between seven and eight percent. The news is better and I am encouraged. But, should we, as a nation, be doing better? No question!

The air, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. Yes, there has been progress made on the cleanup front; yet, there remains this epic tug-of-war and of seeming titanic proportions in terms of the air attaining the definitive state-of-healthy-repair status.

So, looking at the two in a side-by-side comparison as far as progress goes, America’s economy seems to be faring far better.

One may be interested in knowing how air and the economy interplay, that is, how one might influence the other. At first glance, the duo would seem insular, unrelated constructs – but they, in fact, are not.Bike-diamond-lane[1] In reality, because our improving economy has had a positive effect on trade, business, building, employment, manufacturing, and the real estate and home sales markets this, in turn, has negatively affected infrastructure and the air, and what this translates into is that the impacts to quality of life have been both positive and negative at the same time.

In the final analysis, there seems to have been a trade-off.

Hydrogen_station_pump[1]Take the case of Utah, for example.

In an undated message on air quality matters from the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, the organization states:

“Working to improve Utah’s air is now the top priority of more than 15 NGO and public health organizations. Tragically, state political and business leadership continue to avoid any action that in their view, could have a negative effect on economic development while ignoring the fact that air pollution in and of itself is a serious detriment to economic development,” (Information pertaining to Utah accessed via the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club Web site).1

Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah

That Sierra Club chapter goes on to list some of air pollution’s particulars such as health effects and representative air-quality-related-ranking data for both Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County. (For a detailed analysis of information, including related and relevant issues, actions and recommendations, see: UtahSierran, “Utah Air Quality” at the Sierra Club Utah Chapter Web site).

Is the Utah situation the exception or the rule?

Any thoughts?


  1. All cited Sierra Club website Material was reproduced with the permission of the Sierra Club, © 2013 Sierra Club. All Rights Reserved.

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