Author highlights air pollution, mitigating solutions

Journalist, author and teacher, Linda Marsa, in her latest book: “Fevered: Why a Hotter Planet Will Hurt Our Health – and How We Can Save Ourselves,” details what I as a San Joaquin Valley, California resident know all too well – air pollution, a scourge affecting the likes of the area’s four million inhabitants and growing. Each year in the Golden State it is estimated that as many as 21,000 people die prematurely from air pollution’s effects, a significant number of these early mortalities being San Joaquin Valley-based. No one living here is immune to its effects.

The Valley or Central Valley, as referred to by regionals, a 24,000-square-mile area (approximately 300 miles long by roughly 80 miles wide), possesses some of the world’s most fertile cropland. The region, already home to a tenth of the state’s 38 million residents, is projected to double in population by 2050. Due to drought conditions coupled with overall inefficient land and water usage, the latter resource is becoming scarcer.

Meteorology and topography – mountains to the east, south and west – are strong influential factors in the Valley acting as an air-pollution trap. In fact, one Fresno Bee correspondent – Barbara Anderson – has, in a December 16, 2007 special “Fighting For Air” Fresno Bee report, called Fresno County in the heart of the Valley “California’s asthma capital” and further stressed “according to a 2005 statewide health survey” that about one-in-three children living here – 75,000 – suffers from asthma.1

Meanwhile, one Fresno health official cited in “Fevered” has expressed how over the past decade the number of asthmatic children under the respiratory therapist’s oversight and placed on the prescribed treatment regimen indicated, has grown, and this, quite frankly, has the medical professional worried.

As if this were not enough, being one of the nation’s most notorious polluted air basins – motor vehicles themselves the leading polluted air contributor in the Valley according to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, by comparison, the eight county San Joaquin Valley has, in my opinion, one of the tamest campaigns to try to right a listing and deleterious air-quality ship. We should have one of the most if not the most aggressive, by comparison – no question.

A primary “Fevered” focus, in fact, being on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and getting such in check, to assist in this area in California, a mitigating effort known in the state as the Sustainable Communities Strategies initiative has been launched, the main thrust under the California Senate Bill 375 or the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act umbrella which, incidentally, passed in November 2008. In the Valley, the GHG reduction targets are 5 percent and 10 percent by 2020 and 2035, respectively.

Much, much more presented in Marsa’s book than matters dealing with the SanJoaquin Valley, no less important is discussion describing first-hand accounts of people of communities weather-ravaged by floods and droughts of an almost unfathomable scope, breadth and depth, some of whom were most unfortunate strictly from the standpoint of having suffered both; catastrophic events that many times left in their wakes further suffering – disease, displacement and depression, to name just three – are poignant reminders of what could lay ahead, perhaps even on a far grander scale.

But it is not just examples of calamities and catastrophes Marsa has brought to bear. She provides instance after encouraging instance of mitigating strategies: denser urban core development and redevelopment practices as a viable means to counter the effects of 50 to 60 years of seemingly unbridled outward, greenhouse-gas-producing metro sprawl; what is summarily called for as is increased reliance on public transit and transit-oriented development which, if followed through on, would result in less dependence on fossil-fuel-powered automobile usage – and it doesn’t stop there as there is way, way more in this regard that Marsa offers.

Oh, and lest I forget there is the book’s moral imperative, this being (based on my interpretation): To set ourselves on both an environmentally palatable and sustainable track and to engage in the challenge with unwavering resolve.

Via “Fevered: Why a Hotter Planet Will Hurt Our Health – and How We Can Save Ourselves” by Linda Marsa, a spotlight on air pollution and associated mitigation is dutifully shined.

Notes:

  1. Barbara Anderson, “Fresno is state’s asthma capital,” “Fighting for Air,” The Fresno Bee, Dec. 16, 2007, p. 5.

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