Posts Tagged ‘Lung-Burning’

May greenery … get it while it’s brown

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

* England, afflicted with air pollution problems since Shakespeare’s time and the country that suffered the deadliest “killer smog” in world history, has made great strides towards blue sky. But the problem is hardly licked there or other highly industrialized cities across Europe. The pictures don’t die and coughing lungs don’t act. Check out this photo spread from the Daily Mail of icky haze in different British cities intermixed with portraits of chyrsallis blue sky when the smog chemicals had taken the day off.

* Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court kepts its provincial, law-book mitts out of environmental regulation, turning back Republican efforts to strip the Obama Administration’s EPA from policing greenhouse gases. What part about global warming and carbon chemicals, we’re eager to know, are unrelated to the EPA’s fundamental charge to protect U.S. citizens and its air, land and sea from ecological damage? Oh, yeah. The political component. Silly us. Here’s how the old, gray lady, the New York Times, viewed the failed wing-clipping effort in a table-setter.

“The case about global warming scheduled to be argued on Tuesday before the Supreme Court is a blockbuster. Eight states — from California to New York, plus New York City — sued six corporations responsible for one-fourth of the American electric power industry’s emissions of carbon dioxide. Rather than seeking money or punishment for the defendants, they seek what everyone should agree is the polluters’ responsibility: abatement of their huge, harmful part in causing climate change. The purpose is not to solve global warming or usurp the government’s role in doing so. It is, rightly, to get major utilities to curb their greenhouse-gas emissions before the government acts. Because there is no federal regulation of this problem in force, it is fortunate that there is a line of Supreme Court precedents back to 1901 on which the plaintiffs can build their challenge. When this lawsuit began seven years ago, one of the defendants’ main defenses was that, because the Clean Air Act and other laws “address” carbon dioxide emissions, Congress has “legislated on the subject” and pre-empted the suit. The pre-emption claim was spurious when they made it and remains spurious now …”

* The L.A. Times reviews the book “Here on Earth,” a narrative that isn’t the gloomy, let’s-just-get-drunk-while-the-climate-does-us-in eulogy one might have suspected for the global warming age.  

“Earth could use a biograghy. Tim Flannery has delivered a provocative one in time for Earth Day. Despite the rising level of greenhouse gases warming the Blue Planet and the failure to unite governments behind efforts to arrest the trend, Flannery is optimistic for Earth’s future and that of its most destructive inhabitants: you and me. That’s not to say there aren’t reasons to fall into a funk while reading “Here on Earth,” the latest work from one of the planet’s great field zoologists and thinkers. Flannery doesn’t bury the hard facts of climate change. But unlike those who believe the human race has evolved into a species incapable of the long-term thought and unity that can save it from overconsumption, Flannery falls in with those who still believe we can save ourselves, in part by retooling our thinking of evolution itself. ‘We have trod the face of the Moon, touched the nethermost pit of the sea, and can link minds instantaneously across vast distances. But for all that, it’s not so much our technology, but what we believe that will determine our fate,’ Flannery proclaims in his ‘dual biography’ of the planet and mankind. ‘Today, many think that our civilization is doomed to collapse,’ he writes. ‘Such fatalism is misplaced. It derives in large part from a misreading of Darwin, and a misunderstanding of our evolved selves. Either such ideas will survive or we will.’

Talking about the survival, what about endurance of famously smogged out respiratory tracts? To learn more, read our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles.

From China to Chinatown: selective retention roundup

Monday, March 7th, 2011

* China is supposedly changing its stripes, from the dark red of capitalistic communism to some yet to be determined shade of green. The world’s fastest growing economy is on an energy conservation kick. Hard to believe, but here’s the New York Times story (color us skeptical): “… Bejing’s emphasis on saving energy reflects concerns about national security and the effects of high fuel costs on inflation, China’s export competitiveness and the country’s pollution problems. Any energy policy moves by Beijing hold global implications, given that China is the world’s biggest consumer of energy and largest emitter of greenhouse gases. And even the new efficiency goals assume that China’s overall energy consumption will grow, to meet the needs of the nation’s 1.3 billion people and its rapidly expanding economy …”

* Not depressed enough? Read up on a little apocalyptic scriptline called “potential mass extinction” from the destruction of endangered species. USA Today story tidbit: “… The IUCN lists 18,351 species on its “Red List of Threatened Species,” considered the global standard for the conservation status of animal and plant species. All are at risk based on current and projected habitat loss or destruction due to human encroachment and climate change. Of those, 1,940 are listed as critically endangered, meaning the species’ numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations …”

* The Southern California Physician Magazine, which is associated with the venerable Los Angeles County Medical Association, has a long and worthwhile story about smog and health in its April edition. It begins with the lead anecdote from our book, and examines the grim air-pollution health realities, such as we know them. There’s also an extremely informative sidebar about the different sorts of emissions we face here in the basin. From the article: “… The most telling new study, however, is one released just this year from the RAND Corporation. Entitled “The Impact of Air Quality on Hospital Spending,” the study found that in failing to meet federal air quality standards over the years 2005-2007, California incurred an estimated 29,808 preventable hospital admissions and emergency room visits. Even more daunting in this era of escalating health care costs, the authors—John A. Romley, Andrew Hackbarth, and Dana P. Goldman—found that the additional hospital care cost health care purchasers and insurers $193.2 million. Medicare alone spent $103.6 million on air pollution-related hospital care during the course of the study (see “Air Pollution–Related Hospital Events and Charges”) …”

* Spot.us, a community funded news organization, will soon be starting a radio series about L.A. smog and its nexus with oil production and other factors in concert with newdesk.org. We’ll be blogging more about this terrific show — “Air Check” on the program “Hear in the City” — as the installments run. The lead journalist, Sara Harris, has been reading our book and recently interviewed us. Don’t call us the enviro James Ellroy for nothing! Please listen to the show on KPFK.

Been under deadline for new book, so lot’s of ground and air to make up.

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

* The startling picture of smogged out L.A. was the cover shot for a Wired magazine feature story about Southern California’s epic fight for blue skies against it’s own people’s auto addiction. They were gracious to highlight our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, and interviewed me. Here’s a little blurb:

“… People in Los Angeles were very proud of their air,” said Chip Jacobs, one of the authors of Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Smog in Los Angeles. “They said that L.A. was the land of pure air, and that moving there could cure tuberculosis and alcoholism. They thought there had to be one simple answer.” The day after the first big smog, city officials pointed to the Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Street Plant as the source of the thick cloud. The facility manufactured an ingredient in synthetic rubber called butadiene. Public pressure temporarily shut down the Aliso Street Plant, but the smog episodes continued to get even worse. Undeterred, Los Angeles Mayor Fetcher Bowron announced in August that there would be “an entire elimination” of the problem within four months. But the search for the culprit of the “gas attacks” — and the ensuing battle to curb the culprit’s emissions — was just beginning …”

* An interesting MSNBC piece about scientists’ progress in creating artificial lungs. Gosh, L.A. would be the perfect test city.

” … Nearly 400,000 people die of lung diseases each year in the United States alone, according to the American Lung Association, and lung transplants are far too rare to offer much help. But how to replicate these spongy organs? Niklason’s team stripped an adult rat’s lung down to its basic structural support system, its scaffolding, to see if it would be possible to rebuild rather than start completely from scratch …”

* For now, forget using the prospect of a green-jobs bonanza to convince Congress and the American public to support the national climate bill stalling in Washington, D.C.  From the L.A. Times blog.

* Speaking of cap-and-trade, California and other regions, though not the first ones envisioned, may enact their own greenhouse market. Good luck getting voters to support it in this jobless recovery or keeping fraud at bay. From the L.A. Times story.

“As the nation’s most populous state and the world’s eighth-largest economy, California wields significant influence. International and national controls are needed to curb global warming, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday, “but California and the rest of the Western Climate Initiative partners are not waiting to take action.”

” … The Western initiative would cut emissions 15% below 2005 levels. It would transition the region to “a green economy that will reduce our dependency on oil, increase our energy security and create jobs and investment now,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. The trading program would allow companies to meet targets by purchasing less expensive “offsets” from forests, agriculture or garbage dumps when companies in those sectors store carbon dioxide beyond what they would have emitted in the normal course of business …”

* I’ve probably written a dozen stories about L.A.’s unheralded crisis with deadly hexavalent chromium (otherwise known as “chrome-six,” or the Erin Brockovich chemical) creeping and moving through its acquifiers and land. In 2004, I did a series about it for Southland Publshing and in 2000 I covered the subject for the L.A. Times. Unfortunately, the problem is getting worse. Here’s the L.A. Daily News coverage (and the Daily News deserves lots of credit for its mid-1990s stories on chrome-six related to Lockheed Corp; I was lucky to have on the team that wrote about it). With all the focus on greenhouse gases and the drought, we’ve all forgotten about a deadly industrial poison spreading through wells and leaving local officials with tricky decisions to make.

A couple of troubling smog stories, if you define smog as man-made poison that come in particles or EMG waves. Ignore at your own peril. How’s that for melodrama?

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

From the story titled, Electrical pollution from cell phones and WiFi may be hazardous

“In 1990, the city of La Quinta, CA, proudly opened the doors of its sparkling new middle school. Gayle Cohen, then a sixth-grade teacher, recalls the sense of excitement everyone felt: “We had been in temporary facilities for 2 years, and the change was exhilarating.”

But the glow soon dimmed.

One teacher developed vague symptoms — weakness, dizziness — and didn’t return after the Christmas break. A couple of years later, another developed cancer and died; the teacher who took over his classroom was later diagnosed with throat cancer. More instructors continued to fall ill, and then, in 2003, on her 50th birthday, Cohen received her own bad news: breast cancer … ”

This one falls under the environmental “Duh” category. Can you believe that Chinese smog drifts over the Pacific Ocean, adding to the West Coast’s pollution problem. It’s only a phenomenon that’s been heavily reported for years, and makes it way into our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution In Los Angeles based on a 2005 Wall Street Journal story. Well, the L.A. Times is catching up. Hooray. They can use a “recent study” to explain why they’re just awakening to a seriously scary pattern of atmospheric assault. Story link.

“Ozone from Asia is wafting across the Pacific on springtime winds and boosting the amount of the smog-producing chemical found in the skies above the Western United States, researchers said in a study released Wednesday.

The study, published in the journal Nature, probes a phenomenon that has puzzled scientists in the last decade: Ground-level ozone has dropped in cities thanks to tighter pollution controls, but it has risen in rural areas in the Western U.S., where there is little industry or automobile traffic.

The study, led by Owen R. Cooper, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado, examined nearly 100,000 observations in the free troposphere — the region two to five miles above ground — gathered from aircraft, balloons and ground-based lasers.

It found that baseline ozone — the amount of gas not produced by local vehicles and industries — has increased in springtime months by 29% since 1984. The study has important implications both for the curbing of conventional pollution that damages human health and for controls on greenhouse gases that are changing the planet’s climate, experts said.”

Finally, Bill gets a little digital ink in the Huffington Post with a book review about the Southwest’s perennial drought. That silky prose dances on the page.

Obama’s EPA proposes crackdown on ozone that the Bush White House rejected.

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

From the Los Angeles Times story:

“The Environmental Protection Agency proposed the nation’s strictest-ever smog limits this morning, a move that could put large parts of the country in violation of federal air quality regulations.

The EPA proposed allowing a ground-level ozone concentration of between 60 and 70 parts per billion, down from the 75-ppb standard adopted under President George W. Bush in 2008.

That means cracking down even further on the emissions from power plants, factories, landfills and motor vehicles which bake in sunlight and form smog.

Obama administration officials and environmental groups say the new standards align with the levels scientists say are needed to safeguard against increased respiratory diseases, particularly in children, and that they could save $100 billion in heath costs over time. The EPA also said compliance costs could total up to $90 billion nationwide.

A 65-ppb standard — the middle of the proposed range — would avert between 1,700 and 5,100 premature deaths nationwide in 2020, compared to the 75-ppb standard, the EPA estimates. The agency projects the stricter standard would also prevent an additional 26,000 cases of aggravated asthma, compared to the Bush-era standard, and more than a million days when people miss work or school …”

If you read our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, you’d know ozone sounds whimsical but is pretty deadly.

Around the green horn … Wednesday potpourri

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

solar-cell-array-jpeg-lasmogtown

* From the L.A. Times story:

“A solar energy project proposed for development on public land in the Mojave Desert would create jobs mostly for Las Vegas and electricity for San Francisco at the expense of the relatively pristine area of east San Bernardino County where it would be built, San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt said …

‘Obviously, there is a lot of political pressure to get this project expedited and under construction,” Mitzelfelt said. “But its impacts in San Bernardino County and sensitive and scenic Mojave Desert environment are not worth the benefits.’ … ”

* Hmm, does this sound familiar – a green Ponzi scheme that slipped past the regulatory watchdogs? Not that many honest politicians want to discuss this. From the New York Times post

“Federal regulators have accused four people and two companies of using bogus claims about “green initiatives” to entice more than 300 investors into what was really a $30 million Ponzi scheme.”

* Power to … ummm, the windmills. Sorry, that’s politically incorrect green jabber. Power to the windturbines, micro or massive, whether they spin horizontally or merry-go-round style. Interesting story about this in the L.A. Times (link). Stay tuned on this subject.

* In a scene straight from our book, Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, comes this latest effort to beat back global warming with “geo-engineering.” Anyone have an air pollution sewer blueprint ready to roll. What I find interesting isn’t the scientific bravado and ingenuity that some might otherwise tab hubris but a discussion of the unintended consequences of messing with Mother Nature.

From the L.A. Times piece:

“If there were some kind of panic button to stop global warming, what would it look like?

How about billions of tiny mirrors, launched into orbit to deflect solar rays away from Earth? Or big, fluffy clouds, artificially whitened so they reflect more sunlight back into space? Or maybe mechanical trees, ugly but effective at sucking carbon dioxide from the air along busy highways?

Outlandish as some of these proposals may seem, scientists and engineers are paying increasing attention to such ideas amid mounting evidence that human-caused climate change is wreaking havoc in some parts of the world.

The proposals belong to a field known as geo-engineering, or manipulation of the environment on a grand scale …”

* Think we’re too cynical here. Read on about what’s happened in China here.

* If that doesn’t depress you about what’s happening in Asia, you always have super-duper dirty L.A. Break out the bubbly – we’re the 7th most toxic city in America (depending on how you calculate that.) Link.

Video of Green Prize day

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

California hurting, or just reacclimating to the new world?

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

seal-of-california-jpeg-lasmogtown

California is “failing,” or so says the British. Excuse us if I’ve heard this one before from supposed sharp-eyed observers convinced we’re past the tipping point to social doom. We dip into outsiders fancy for seeing ruin before the ruin is really there in our book Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. Imagine that: California actually made it out of the 1970s1

From a recent Guardian feature

“California has a special place in the American psyche. It is the Golden State: a playground of the rich and famous with perfect weather. It symbolises a lifestyle of sunshine, swimming pools and the Hollywood dream factory.

But the state that was once held up as the epitome of the boundless opportunities of America has collapsed. From its politics to its economy to its environment and way of life, California is like a patient on life support. At the start of summer the state government was so deeply in debt that it began to issue IOUs instead of wages. Its unemployment rate has soared to more than 12%, the highest figure in 70 years. Desperate to pay off a crippling budget deficit, California is slashing spending in education and healthcare, laying off vast numbers of workers and forcing others to take unpaid leave. In a state made up of sprawling suburbs the collapse of the housing bubble has impoverished millions and kicked tens of thousands of families out of their homes. Its political system is locked in paralysis and the two-term rule of former movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen as a disaster – his approval ratings having sunk to levels that would make George W Bush blush. The crisis is so deep that Professor Kevin Starr, who has written an acclaimed history of the state, recently declared: “California is on the verge of becoming the first failed state in America …”

Scoff as you may at predictions of California’s tragic early demise, don’t dismiss what some “green roofs” can do as one salvo in the battle against global warming. MSNBC story.

Feeling itchy and green all over? You’re not alone. We’re in era of environmental anguish, and unfortunately Tylenol and a margarita aren’t much relief. New York Times post.

We like this move as insurance if Obama-backed legislation focused on dramatically slowing U.S.-generated greenhouse gases while improving our energy efficiency and use of renewables goes down in flames to partisan politics. L.A. Times story.

Smogtown wins the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

green-prize-for-sustainable-literarure-logo-jpeg-lasmogtown1

Here’s a description and other details about this sweet honor, which was presented to us and other writers on Saturday, Oct. 5 by the city of Santa Monica:

The Green Prize is intended to “encourage and commend authors, illustrators, and publishers who produce quality books for adults and young people that make significant contributions to, support the ideas of, and broaden public awareness of sustainability. The City of Santa Monica’s Sustainable City Plan defines sustainability as “meeting current needs – environmental, economic, and social – without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.”

Did I mention how tickled we are to be receiving this, particularly on top of the other awards we’ve fortunate enough to collect? If not, thank you SANTA MONICA!

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