Air fare extraordinaire: From apathy to zealousness and then some

A week ago one television news broadcast (the one I was watching, of course) had a news item pointing out America’s best city in which to live. Before the answer was revealed, I could only think of one place – Denver. I was close: Denver dropped to the number two spot. That means that last year, Denver was tops. So, which place is second-to-none? Austin, Texas if I’m not mistaken.

If it is the central-Texas city that now heads the list (at least according to one poll), how did the mile-high city get overtaken? What did Austin do to pull ahead? I’m curious. Alternatively, I could ask why Denver slipped a notch.

I would imagine one ranking criteria would be air quality. If so, what this tells me is that air quality in both metro regions is, at minimum, somewhat good if not just plain good.

Now you know in late April, the American Lung Association comes out with its annual “State of the Air” report. If this year is no exception, what I would expect to learn at that time via the lung association report is that Austin and Denver rank right up there among the nation’s cities with cleaner air.

So, it begs the question: What will be the association’s top pick as America’s cleanest-air city? I can’t wait! Will it be Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; Fort Myers, Florida; Santa Fe, New Mexico, just where, exactly?

Another question I would ask is: For those considering relocating, what percentage takes air quality into consideration when choosing a place to relocate to? Again, I’m curious.

And, I’m thinking of yet another question still: For all those places that rank poorly in the lung association’s “State of the Air” report, what if any action is taken to try to change that status once the situation is learned? Are the metros notoriously known for having poor air quality loath, either out of a lack of caring or concern, to do much at all about it?

There is another name for this – it’s called apathy.

There are places I suspect where residents believe it is the role of government to deal with the dirty-air problem plaguing their communities. Others, meanwhile, are convinced the bad air mucking up their views and lungs and what-not comes from sources from some upwind community and it is that city located upwind that must get its emissions under control, while still others subscribe to the notion that weather dictates all; in other words, leave it up to Mother Nature to solve all. I even once heard someone (on camera) exclaim that Fresno skies are blue (which, in this person’s view, is more often than not, apparently) so, why even fret. To him, at least, the whole matter seemed a non-issue. Seems absurd, if you ask me.

I have another way of describing that symptom. You heard right, symptom. It’s called not getting with the program.

The Guardian newspaper right now has published what seems is a series of articles bringing air pollution front and center, one columnist categorizing, describing polluted air and the number of people dying early on account of it – 6.5 million people worldwide – as a crisis – a world emergency, if you will.

Ten years ago this coming December, in my hometown, The Fresno Bee published a special feature titled: “Fighting For Air.” It was a truly comprehensive accounting of the situation besetting the San Joaquin Valley of California air pollution-wise. There was seemingly nothing having anything and everything to do with this that wasn’t included in the discourse. The feature was quite thorough, in other words.

From this, the one item that has stuck in my mind since then more than any other is the number of children in Fresno County who live their lives as asthmatics – the number is almost one in three, according to the Bee’s Barbara Anderson then, or roughly 75,000 out of 225,000 children. It’s no wonder the Bee columnist in the article where cited referred to Fresno County as the asthma capital of California.1 A sad-but-true reality.

A decade is a long time. I’m curious to know what’s changed, what hasn’t in that 10-year span. Is it time for a second “Fighting For Air – 10 years on” installment? Sure couldn’t hurt.

On the home front – Fresno – meanwhile, I suspect this winter this area air quality-wise will get a pretty clean bill of health thanks to abundant rain. The particulate matter season typically lasts from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28 in these here parts.

If it turns out to be good this one season, that’s not an excuse to become complacent. That is absolutely the wrong attitude to take because not every winter is going to be as wet as this one’s been. For those who have been keeping track, the southwest U.S. has suffered from at least five years of drought; a dry spell that’s been persistent.

Okay, so we got lucky and caught a break. How long this break will last is anyone’s guess. The better approach is to embrace technology, abide by the rules, regulations and just be good stewards of the land, water and air.

A textbook example of getting and staying with the program if ever there was one.


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

Image above: U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

– Alan Kandel

1 thought on “Air fare extraordinaire: From apathy to zealousness and then some”

  1. One solution we are developing
    If you heat the air in certain manner you can create wind currents that removes bad air and brings in good air. All you need to do is use reflective paint that reflects the sun
    In one example the local temp was reduced significantly
    It is simply a physics problem to decide where to stress the maximum reflection

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