The envelope, please. And Darwin(er) is …

LocationOfHypothalamus[1]I do not proclaim to be the world’s smartest person. If anything, far from it. And, I have to admit that, as an adolescent, I pulled some pretty dumb – and daring – stunts. I would be inclined to believe many teenagers would be guilty of such things. Chalk these up as “testing-the-waters” experiences. I’ll not get into the specifics, thank you very much. But, when someone or people do acts that just defy logic, I believe the awarding of a “Darwin” is highly in order.

That a person near to where I live set their front lawn on fire is bad enough. But, to do this three times total – the third and final time and on account of this the fire department responded to the incident – the first thing that enters my mind is: What was this person thinking?! Did this person not think the situation could get out of hand? That potentiality was probably small. This notwithstanding, there was obviously no regard whatsoever for the damage to the air this action – as flagrant a violation as it was – caused.

If I didn’t know differently I would have sworn this individual was trying to give the term “yard burning” new meaning.

Not long ago I did a story on backyard burning in Santa Ynez in Santa Barbara County (California). This was about complaints by concerned property owners being lodged against those who were burning green waste (clippings, trimmings) close-by. I, for the life of me, cannot figure out why such a practice is even allowed. As for setting lawns – front, back or otherwise – ablaze, as the adage admonishes, “don’t try this at home.”

Likewise, a “Darwin” should be awarded to any school and school district that allows outdoor athletics or sports-related activities/competitions to be conducted when the air quality index (AQI) is well into the unhealthy category and is closing in on the hazardous or even enters the hazardous category. Uh, duh! The “unhealthy” and “hazardous” designations were established for a reason! I have yet to hear of a school or district cancelling a Friday night football game locally on account of unhealthy air. I do know of at least one game that should have been called for this very reason. A news report mentioned that the air was so thick with particulate matter (soot) that it was nearly impossible to see from bleachers on one side of the field to bleachers on the side opposite. I can only imagine what breathing must have been like for the spectators; presumed even worse for the players engaged in physical activity. Is there any amount of pollution in the air where those who are responsible for stopping such a game will, well, stop a game or, is it a case with them, regarding such that “the show must go on!”? I’m just asking. The only evidence I have seen leads me to conclude the latter. Since this was a college game we are talking about here, I can only imagine what were the visiting team’s thoughts.

I would be totally remiss if I did not include in this accounting an incident that I am aware of where a bus full of schoolchildren were being transported home and happened through an area where agricultural field pesticide spraying was transpiring and through drift, the kids on the bus were exposed, several becoming sickened to the point of having to be sent to the hospital for further assessment if not treatment. If I recall correctly, this incident happened near the town of Ivanhoe in Tulare County (California). I wonder if growers in the area where the incident happened are now required to notify area schools or the district when pesticide sprayings are to occur. Seems like a no-brainer.

I bring all of this up in the hopes that those who are in leadership positions when it comes to their own welfare and that of others they lead, that they have the presence of mind to make the correct calls when it comes to better protecting public health from pollution’s dangers. Could it be that Charles Darwin had it wrong in that it is not survival of the fittest, but rather the smartest? In terms of air quality smarts, it seems there is still much to learn.

Incidentally, the AQI for ozone in Edison in Kern County (California) today reached 151 or unhealthy for everyone.

Image above: National Institutes of Health

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