Three Rivers Muse & News

The Kaweah Commonwealth is the weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, Calif. The coverage area includes what is collectively known as "Kaweah Country," from the highest peaks in Sequoia National Park to the Sierra Nevada foothills to the floor of the San Joaquin Valley.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Scary air

QUESTION: What is the most polluted city in the world?
Answer at the end of this blog…

Unless you live in a complete haze, and apparently we do, you may have already heard about the American Lung Association’s report that was released this week. It is a discouraging study that without even mentioning Three Rivers essentially says we are in dire straits.

The organization’s annual State of the Air report lists the most polluted urban areas in the nation. Even though we here in Kaweah Country are nowhere near being classified as urban, we are in close proximity and there’s no escape.

Los Angeles retains top honor as the smoggiest city. It also spewed its way to number one in 2003, 2004, and 2005.

Also in the top 10 for air quality to die for is Bakersfield (number 3) and Visalia-Porterville (number 7). And that’s not all — the Fresno-Madera area is in 15th place while Hanford-Corcoran made 17th. That means Three Rivers is between Moro Rock and a polluted place.

Now here’s where it gets downright depressing. The other metropolitan areas that round out the top 25 as having the unhealthiest air to breathe are all either along or east of the Mississippi.

So it’s L.A. and the Central Valley that can’t get a grip on the pollution problem, then clean-breathing for 2,000 miles until St. Louis, Missouri. Well, not really “clean” because almost half of the U.S. population lives in counties with unhealthy levels of pollution, even if they can’t quite make the top 10 like we can.

Around these parts, we can’t even agree on whether global warming is real or not. Although we can argue that pollution is or isn’t affecting the earth’s processes, we can’t dispute that it’s unhealthy for us to inhale 28,000 times each day.

Actually, we in Kaweah Country don’t have time to save an entire planet; we need to save ourselves. But being that we live in one of the dirtiest air basins anyway, if we reduce local pollution, we tremendously help the planet.

That is, unless we collectively decide to continue our consumptive lifestyles, but get rid of the rest of the state’s pollution that blows our way. A giant, hydroelectrically-powered turbine at Lake Kaweah blowing west might do the trick.

But, seriously folks, it’s time for a lifestyle change so our kids and grandchildren don’t sit around breathing into their ventilators and discussing how uneducated and out of touch we were.

First step: Be aware. Anything that is driven, uses electricity, was processed or manufactured, or has been delivered has consumed fossil fuels and emitted carbon dioxide. Reduce the use of any of the above and, voila, pollution is reduced.

Second step: Be vocal. Call the air district when you see polluting vehicles (they should be smog-tested or off the road), offensive ag burning (debris should be chipped and mulched), or uncontrolled dust (work the land during the wet season or water it down). Also, write to legislators and let them know we want to see Alta Peak, not the air we breathe.

According to a British government study just released, high levels of air pollution reduced life expectancy more than the radiation exposure suffered by survivors of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

ANSWER: Linfen, China, is the most polluted city in the world. The 3.5 million residents wear breathing masks to protect themselves from pollution.

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