‘Caustic air with a dab of gray’

You’ve all heard the expression: “Everything in moderation.” Actually, no.

If we’re talking consumption, exercise, spending, then yes. As for air pollution I don’t think so! Zip, zilch, zero. No pollutant, regardless of size. In my book, just one person exposed to unhealthful airborne filth is one too many.

Air pollution: It’s a problem and it’s widespread. Just how widespread? All one need do is access Google to see. Try typing in the word “smog” in the search field. Next, click on “Google search.” In a matter of but a fraction of a second, notice how many entries are displayed. One can even narrow the search, say like finding out what smog is like in one’s area or if smog is a problem at all. No problem. Of course, a look outside would pretty much clue a person in if a problem existed.

Smog in the news? Yeah, one can check that too.

Meanwhile, in the place I call home, there is regular mention of air pollution on the local broadcast television news. Totally understandable. As a matter of fact, late afternoon, yesterday, tuned into the weather report, I heard the meteorologist providing fairly detailed commentary on the air quality for Fresno, Kings, Madera, Merced and Tulare counties along with wood-burning prohibition/conditional-use information (all five counties had at best moderate air quality at the high end of moderate very near the unhealthy-for-sensitive-individuals level, one of the counties – Kings, I think – even breaching that reaching unhealthy-for-sensitive-individuals status). Conditions which are not uncommon around here.

Remarkable, on the other hand, was a comment made post-report delivered by one of the news anchors who observed how nice the weather was. In the (pun intended) heat of summer, absolutely. But, in the middle of winter with temperatures closing in on the low 70s?! Does this person not know what high pressure coupled with higher temperatures means?! In this part of the country, consistent with the increase in temperatures typically comes worsening air quality. So, I would ask: What’s “nice” about that? Warm weather? I would agree. Nice outside? Uh, no. Sorry.

Okay, so I read an article written by Steven Mayer in the Bakersfield Californian with the apropos title: “Valley curse: Nice winter weather often means poor air quality.” See what I mean?

Mayer’s article kind of sort of starts out in the affirmative, then does a quick about-face as referenced in paragraph three is an asthmatic who apparently had back-to-back attacks: one Sunday evening followed by a second the next day. What prompted the attacks is not specifically known; most likely they resulted from a number of different triggers. But, here again, I would ask: What’s this person’s health like on days when the air is clean? If the answer is no flare-ups or no asthma symptoms whatsoever, well, you tell me.

Farther along in the same story, there was reference to how San Joaquin Valley air is not what it used to be. That’s most probably true. The person in the piece pointing this out is a San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District official who suggested regional air quality has seen improvement.

Once I read this, this prompted my remembering the following thoughts from the California Progress Report article: “California Smart Growth and Improving San Joaquin Valley Quality of Life.”

The paragraphs in question read as follows:

According to the Sept. 30, 2006 edition of the Fresno Bee, citing other sources, there were 83 air quality violations in the San Joaquin Valley in 2005, second only to the Los Angeles Basin, which had 86, the most in the nation.

“Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter representative Kevin Hall of Fresno was quoted in the same Bee article as saying, “‘We’re having 80 times more violations than’” is allowed. “‘This is like saying we’re drowning in 8 feet of water instead of 10. You’re still drowning.’”

Mr. Hall: Perfectly put. This couldn’t be worded better!

Oh, and the order of the day? That would be the usual: Caustic air with a dab of gray.

California’s expansive and agriculturally fertile yet often air-polluted San Joaquin Valley

This post has been updated.

Leave a Comment