A reader made a comment on my last post about the current air quality along the Wasatch Front. While that pollution doesn’t actually relate to global warming as far as I know, I agree wholeheartedly with her implied sentiment that we need to be as concerned about the local, immediate environmental conditions as the long-term, global-scale environmental problems. The pollution to which she referred, the winter inversion, is the twin of the summer pollution problem I posted regarding some months ago, and which is caused by the same problems (Our decentralized communities, dependence on automobiles and our highly mobile and independent lifestyle).
When they hear people complain about the inversion and its effect on their health, many “old timers” like to retort that conditions are much better than they were in the middle of the last century. According to them, the smog was much thicker and lasted longer back “in the day.” Things are better, so we should stop our environmentalist whining.
Perhaps this is so. Very likely things have improved—at least per capita, though the burgeoning population growth along the Wasatch Front means that it is crucial that per capita pollution must continue to be driven down if our children are to be able to live here. If, for example the pollution released by the average vehical is cut in half, but our vehical total increases four-fold in the next five years, the aggregate pollution has still doubled, and the improvements are insufficient.
I like to ask those elders why they think the conditions have improved. The answer is not because of the benevolence of the corporate world, or the unassisted gears of the market turning inexorably toward a greener economy. It is, of course, because of environmentalists. It is because the tree huggers began to whine about the source of the problems. It is because organizations like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and national and international organizations mobilized their money and grassroots support in a worldwide concerted effort to call attention to the sources of pollution, to the problems that pollution was causing us, or communities, and our planet, and began proposing alternatives. It is because people passionate about their stewardship of the earth created Earth Day and other awareness activities.
Through their efforts, awareness was raised and a combination of public pressure and legislation coerced industries to clean up their processes, relocate to safer sites, and when necessary, close down throughout the planet—including here in the U.S. and Utah.
In other words, the progress we’ve made in having cleaner communities is because of environmentalist whining. And with an burgeoning population which will continue to increase the pressure on the environment, I’m happy to be among the environmentalists keeping up the pressure for further improvement.