This year, the American Lung Association in its 2017 “State of the Air” report was clear: four-in-10 Americans live in counties with unhealthy air. That’s not too, too bad considering six-in-10 don’t.
When you think problematic air, there are a whole slew of so-called “hot spots.” The more familiar ones are such cities as Beijing, Delhi, Los Angeles, London, Mexico City and Paris. There are many, many more, obviously. However, in an effort to keep discussion brief those will not be listed. That those hot spots have been so identified it is because of ozone (smog) or particulates (soot) or black carbon – take your pick.
Meanwhile, zeroing in on California’s San Joaquin Valley meeting National Ambient Air Quality Standards for both ozone and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5 or particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter in size and small enough to pass through the lungs and into the bloodstream) pollution has for years been a quite elusive proposition. I live in the Valley and I hear – or read that – people say it is not our fault; that we are hemmed in on three sides by mountains; that the climate conditions are conducive to the formation of smog and the accumulation of particulates; and that much of the Valley’s pollution blows in from the San Francisco Bay Area through Altamont Pass or is carried on the jet stream from overseas, or from trucks and cars and trains and planes transiting through, coming from somewhere else. What I believe many residents probably agree on is that the Valley should not have to shoulder the full responsibility for cleaning up Valley air, and I could be counted among them.
More broadly, in the United States and attributable to air pollution’s effects each year, according to one source, as many as 200,000 Americans’ lives are cut short.
“Emissions from road transportation are the most significant contributor, causing 53,000 premature deaths, followed closely by power generation, with 52,000,” the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explained in the 2013 “Study: Air pollution causes 200,000 early deaths each year in the U.S.” news release. At most risk it would seem are the elderly, people with health conditions and children whose respiratory systems are not fully developed.
So, how do we rise above it all and get ourselves out of the corner, proverbially speaking, that we have painted ourselves into? In other words, what needs to be done across the globe to clear the planet’s dirty air? As we’ve learned from the World Health Organization, across the globe, annually some 6.5 million early deaths are directly linked to polluted air.
For those seeking positive change, if we want to see a real difference and make measurable progress, just having the inclination or motivation alone will not do the trick. In fact, no one can go it alone. There has to be initiated a unified, concerted and cooperative campaign to drive the momentum required to see the necessary work through. Bottom line: It takes a team.
Just one added item: Today in Hamburg, Germany begins the G20 Summit and discussion on climate and global warming is most definitely on the agenda. There will be those paying very close attention to learn of details regarding said discussion in the hope that the participating nations, states, provinces stay on a climate-change-mitigation track and an effective one at that. Meanwhile, there will no doubt be those that don’t quite share that same aspiration who will, likewise, be closely watching.
As for the air-transported, lung-damaging stuff, in America and all throughout the globe, enough is enough already! Agreed?
America, Earth: Stay the emissions-reduction course, I implore you!
Image above: NASA