Air: taken for granted or until causing major personal upheaval, air appears to matter little

At 19, in 1972 in September, I got my first real taste of smog. You see, it was on a visit to Fullerton, California, that I really took note. What I saw was this grayish-colored haze permeating the air. Ports, steel manufacturing, transportation corridors and hubs (including airports) and more, contributed; that plus area land geography and topography in addition to the kinds of meteorological conditions present, made the entire metropolitan region ripe for smog formation. Add in the needed chemical ingredients and there you go.

A very smoggy 1972 L.A. day

The haze was hard to miss. What was far less apparent, on the other hand, were people who were affected by this blight in their lives in terms of their making their reactions to such known. Everyone I came in contact with seemed to not be fazed by the scourge in the least. All appeared to go about their business as if this smog was nothing out of the ordinary. It was as if ozone had just become an accepted part of southern California life. This is the impression I have now in thinking back.

Things needed changing, improving, and getting people to pay attention was key. It was in 1970, incidentally, that the Clean Air Act was amended and on Apr. 22nd, Earth Day was established.

There came a point when a connection was made between air we could see and its adverse, detrimental effects on health, if breathed in over long periods of time. As a result of it being recognized that something had to be done to make air cleaner, many efforts were initiated and pursued to do just that.

In 1975, in California – the state I now call home – the first two-way catalytic converters on motor vehicles arrived on the scene. The move, apparently, as good as it was for its time, didn’t go far enough. If we really wanted to nip pollution from vehicles in the bud, at a time of limited air-improving technologies being available, if less negative impact from the transportation sector in terms of effect on air was expected, then, really, there was one remedy only: there would need to be less driving, which meant people would have to be afforded other options by which to get around.

But, of course, transportation (mobile sources) was but one contributor to bad air. Other entities would be called on to do their parts too, namely, industry, energy, agriculture and even the general citizenry. It was a task that got more and more difficult as polluted air was compounded by a growing population.

There is a mantra that only recently I have become familiar with and that has deep meaning for me and that is: Nothing worth doing is ever easy. Not doing, meanwhile, is worth nothing. So, this is going to take some work – make no mistake.

So, here it is 2017, some 74 years, almost three-quarters of a century after the first major episodes of stifling smog tainted Los Angeles metropolitan-area air.

It was a problem then (in 1943). It was likewise a problem in 1987-’88 when I lived and worked in nearby Long Beach (a major port and oil-refining area) and it’s still a problem today.

But, these and other air-quality related problems there and elsewhere, unless these are recognized as being serious, severe, you get the idea, threatening lives and seen as presenting a clear-and-present danger on the order of the methane-gas leak at Aliso Canyon (also in southern California) as it was on the neighboring community of Porter Ranch between Oct. 2015 and Feb. 2016 (when the well leak was plugged), my suspicion is, polluted air will be seen as little more than a paltry nuisance for the bulk of the populace, and not a real issue in most people’s lives – the kind that really matters, that is.

Is it the same regarding global warming and climate change? Which, by the way, is a discussion for a different day.

Article updated on June 6, 2017 at 8:01 and then again at 8:28 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

Image above: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

2 thoughts on “Air: taken for granted or until causing major personal upheaval, air appears to matter little

  1. I remember the dense fogs in London shortly after WW2, when they were still called “pea soupers”. The laws were changed to prohibit the burning of coal in domestic open grates. It became unobtainable and one could use only anthracite (or gas) for closed boiler heating, usually for hot water. Today the amount of pollution from motor traffic is replacing what did become a better place to live. We need some better laws.

  2. I grew up in Fullerton and ran cross country for Troy HS right across the street from Cal State Fullerton in the mid to late 60’s. Yes the ozone was bad and created a lot of “airway burn” in those days. There were many days were you could not see the local mountain range that is roughly 40 miles away.

    Now, the air quality is way better and there are basically very few days in which you can’t see those mountains. Running or biking in Southern California in the last 20 years, you never will have to deal with smog or its effects. So clearly catalytic converters and other air pollution measures have been successful……no one even thinks about “smog” as there really is essentially none.

    “Global warming?” That’s a hoax. There is essentially insignificant warming and [email protected] is NOT a pollutant and is greening the earth.

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