Bad-air tales: It is my experience …

Actor, comedian, pianist and singer Jimmy Durante once said: “I got a million of ’em.” He was no doubt referring to “experiences.”

I make reference to the above for the simple reason that experience is invaluable.

A lot of experience is gained through direct observation via the eyes. More of it is acquired through sound or sounds received by one’s ears. Then there is that coming to us courtesy of the senses of taste, smell and touch. The five senses.

If we make a mistake, experience tells us not to make the same mistake again, that is, if we wish not to “experience” the same outcome the same earlier mistake yielded.

So, I would ask: Why, with the knowledge we’ve acquired and the technology available at our disposal, we as a global community have not licked this problem we “know” as air pollution – a condition the overwhelming majority understands? For all intents and purposes, we’ve had two million years to figure this out and get it right. I look outside and still I see the air fraught with the stuff. Experience has taught me that there is something wrong with this picture, most definitely.

My story begins in 1972 in September. It was my first visit to the west to the farthest reaches of the continental U.S.; to the land where California dreamin’ was king – the state’s south-coast region, home of so many things, famous things: Beverly Hills, Disneyland, Hollywood, Sunset Strip (Boulevard, actually), Universal Studios, all the major tourist attractions, and ones not so much: polluted air. I experienced it all.

To this 19-year-old at the time, Southern California smog didn’t make much of an impression. I could see it. The scourge was every bit as much ever-present as it was all-encompassing, and with respect to looking in the vicinity of the horizon line and above, with each and every successive skyward gaze, I was re-reminded the smog was there, as plain as day.

Back then, I don’t think that many made the connection between smoggy air and its detrimental effect. Of course, I had heard about it, but at the time, really didn’t pay it much mind. Today, I know better and I can chalk that up to experience.

About air pollution: So, what have I learned?

There are many types released from a multitude of sectors. There is that which is in a solid state; there is that in liquid form and the rest gaseous in nature. Its two sources: those stationary and mobile in nature; nearly all of it detrimental in some way. Of course, the exception is carbon dioxide in usable quantities. The extra, unusable stuff, meanwhile, not so much.

Putting two and two together

A friend who lives in a part of the United States dealing with the worst fine particulate matter problem (Bakersfield in Kern County, California located at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley) who tells me the difficulties he has dealing with allergies, asthma and sneezing, conditions each and every one disruptive in his – and disruptive to his way of – life, the condition of the air there linked in some way to each of these conditions. Needless to say, my friend takes medications to help him keep all of these so-called “disruptors” in check.

In 2016, the World Health Organization declared that across the globe, 6.5 million each year are dying prematurely due to air pollution exposure. Now I have come to learn that pollution – air, water, soil – annually worldwide claims 9 million lives.

And the answer of course is to wean ourselves off of the fossil fuels we use to grow our crops; cook; heat and cool our homes, businesses and industry; generate electricity; aid in manufacturing activities and processes; and power our travel and transportation modes and more. Yes, I will readily admit that as an oversimplification.

The challenge now is how to get there and with this in mind, not only do we need a plan, but plan execution will determine what the outcome of such is, in this case the environmental effect such will have. Not just this, but a means of monitoring/tracking performance/progress is absolute all for the purpose of measuring success.

And, we know all of this, why? Experience.

Image above: AndrewHorne

– Alan Kandel