The finite and precious resource – air

Stepping outside the other evening I bore witness to an anomaly. Never before in my life had I seen anything like it: A red-colored ball on the western horizon. It was a celestial scene, the kind seen both in silver screen productions and television programs and presentations from the likes of your Gene Roddenbury’s and George Lucas’s and others in such sci-fi classics as Star Trek, Star Wars and more.

And there could be only one explanation for the anomalistic event: smoky haze: that which has imbued in gray central San Joaquin Valley skies, the smoke having drifted in from the Ferguson Fire burning in the central Sierra Nevada.

In listening to and viewing news reports, more and more I am being told of the connection of global warming and a hotter planet to the 100 or so wildland fires not only burning in the U.S. west, but also those in Europe.

I also see where in local air pollution control district documentation cleaner is Valley air compared to years past. Based on an independent study that I conducted myself regarding Annual Ozone Violations for Sierra Skypark versus Parlier (where two ozone air monitors are located in Fresno County) for years 2013-2016, the average number of ozone violations or maybe more correctly ozone standard exceedances was, for Sierra Skypark and Parlier 25.5 and 46, respectively. In both instances, the numbers increased between 2015 and 2016: In the case of Sierra Skypark it went from 19 in 2015 to 26 in 2016. As to Parlier, exceedances went in 2015 from 46 to 52 in 2016. I have not yet looked at 2017 data, but my suspicion is I will not only not see a decline, but a likely leveling off or rise. I suspect that the figures for fine particulate matter pollution, on the other hand, excluding exceptional events like wildland fires, are experiencing improvement, particularly for 2016 and 2017 winters (Nov. 1 – Feb. 28) here in the San Joaquin Valley.

It is important to note, however, that for those two seasons, rainfall/precipitation amounts were above normal: 17+ inches in 2016 and 14+ inches in Fresno the following year, 11.5 inches being the norm. This in all probability had an air-cleansing effect. Rainfall totals are measured between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30.

On the matter of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), I understand from my reading and research that such in the air is becoming more concentrated and the rate at which that concentration is occurring is accelerating. What’s important to keep in mind is the more of this gas in the atmosphere there is, the less air there is – the element so essential to human and animal life and perpetuation thereof.

As for the CO2 absorption mediums the capacity of such to absorb CO2 is shrinking. Worldwide, trees now number half of what existed at their peak: 3 trillion versus 6 trillion. That means that the atmosphere and major bodies of water like large lakes and oceans are left to take in more of the excess CO2 that is being produced. In the oceans, meanwhile, carbon dioxide combining with hydrogen forms carbonic acid and, as a result, oceans, etc. are becoming more acidic. This is detrimental to the in-the-water life, crustaceans particularly.

Precious, the air we breathe is. But the resource that air is also is finite. Which means air should be taken care of, not abused by our pouring poisons and toxic pollutants into it which, unfortunately, has come back to haunt us. And, this in no way means this has to be the way conditions, this situation, or things have to be. The good news is that the air, like sun, wind and wave, is a renewable resource. And, what this means is that, as a resource, in this case, air can be restored or renewed to a more pristine state.

But, that’s on us. In news broadcasts and television-based programming productions featuring protest marches, I sometimes hear the familiar street-centered chants: “What do we want?” with an accompanying response, followed by “When do we want it?” with an accompanying response.

I can, should and will ask now the same of clean air. In that regard we know we want it. It’s more a question of when we want it and what we’re willing to do to work toward that end.

We should think about that.

This post was last revised on Jun. 11, 2020 @ 3:31 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

– Alan Kandel

2 thoughts on “The finite and precious resource – air”

  1. It is worse than you think. The Amazon rain forest produces 20% of the planets oxygen and is disappearing at an alarming rate. More worrying the phytoplankton that produce nearly half the oxygen in the air are in decline.

    • I went and read up on more about this via various sources. Thank you for bringing this important information to my and readers’ attention.

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