The second I learned from the American Lung Association’s (ALA) “Millions of Americans Breathing Unhealthy, Polluted Air Finds American Lung Association’s 2015 ‘State of the Air’ Report: Strong Improvements for Many Cities, Others Suffer Worst Air Quality Episodes” press release, that cities in California’s San Joaquin Valley were among those having the nation’s smoggiest and sootiest air, I wasn’t exactly thrown for a loop. Neither was I surprised to find that in the “Top 10 Most Ozone-Polluted [U.S.] Cities” category Los Angeles was in the top (worst) spot and occupied the fifth position in two other categories: “Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-term Particle Pollution (24-hour PM 2.5)” and “Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution (Annual PM 2.5).” And brought out in the release as well, the ongoing California drought, now in its fourth year incidentally, has apparently contributed to making the bad-air situation that had existed prior to the sustained dry spell, even worse.
To say that attention aplenty is being paid Los Angeles and Valley air is an understatement. Be this as it may, has such been of any help in putting air in these regions back on the right track? Who can say?!
What I’ve noticed in a number of media and editorial accounts is one overarching theme in particular: both these regions, that is, in the air-quality-improvement sense, need help – lots of it, I would say. Of course, for any area or community plagued with problematic air, the sounding of alarm bells calling for comprehensive and corrective action to be taken also seems par for the course. But, in places like LA and the Valley, two Golden State areas regularly impacted by filthy air, whatever the work done and whatever the improvement in air quality made is it enough? One person cited in one article and in commenting in effect, intones “not even close.” According to what I understand the referenced person in this article to be saying is that it will take technology to save the day. Technology to the rescue, eh? Such will play an important role, no question.
Further, surfacing from time to time is discussion, the premise being that a consistent part of the Valley air-quality problem is that pollution drifts or blows in from elsewhere and how those sources responsible outside the area should also be held to account. Makes sense to me. But, it’s not that cut and dried. Some of the air toxics finding their way to and settling in inland communities are actually originating from points offshore and from Asia specifically. That which is Valley bound, the exact amount coming from Asia and the portion sourced from the San Francisco Bay Area is the subject of debate.
Meanwhile, others place blame on physical barriers such as area geography and topography. Meteorology, well, that’s a contributing factor too. And, as odd as this may sound, almost universally missing from the conversation in the news and editorial accounts I’ve been reading as of late having to do with the ALA’s air report, is mention of the fact that poor metropolitan land-use planning and building practices contributed significantly to both Los Angeles’ and the San Joaquin Valley’s deficit air condition nor did I see specific mention of the Golden State’s very ambitious and air-friendlier high-speed rail project, though this might fall under the technology umbrella. As to why this was, I cannot say for sure. Though, what I did pick up on is that in most all cases referenced is how the quality of both regions’ air has improved.
In summation, that which has been presented here speaks volumes. Moreover, there is agreement that work to clean air up in the state’s central interior and southern coastal region is needed. And, regarding the quality of the air in each mentioned region or maybe more correctly the lack thereof, the attention it is getting is nothing short of its fair share.
Still left to be determined is what area is better equipped in terms of helping air get to a healthier place in addition to what area will see the greatest air gains as time marches on. Why this is a big deal is because whichever one of the two does the more effective job will most assuredly have implications for the other.
Two words: stay tuned.
Image above: Dana60Cummins
– Alan Kandel