Posts Tagged ‘3. Health’

If we want to ditch fossil fuels, and all the smog and global warming that it manufactures in bulk, perhaps we should we get ourselves far beyond the clouds.

Monday, November 21st, 2011

* We love this type of story. Ingenuity meets necessity. Graps exceeds reach. A scientific revolution that might lubricate social harmony. Orbital power plants: a warming, exhaust-laden envivorment needs you.


“The sun’s abundant energy, if harvested in space, could provide a cost-effective way to meet global power needs in as little as 30 years with seed money from governments, according to a study by an international scientific group. Orbiting power plants capable of collecting solar energy and beaming it to Earth appear “technically feasible” within a decade or two based on technologies now in the laboratory, a study group of the Paris-headquartered International Academy of Astronautics said … ” Colonel Michael Smith, the U.S. Air Force’s chief futurist as director of the Center for Strategy and Technology at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, said the idea has the potential to send safe, clean electrical energy worldwide “if we can make it work. “Isn’t that what government and industry should be working to do?” he said in a telephone interview.

Sidebar: how realistic?

“The idea of beaming down power from outer space has surfaced in science-fiction stories and government studies for decades now. Commercial deals have been struck, prototype satellites have been proposed, international initiatives have been announced. But has any real progress been made toward developing space-based solar power systems? That’s what we’re talking about this Sunday on “Virtually Speaking Science.”

* In less inspiring news, check out this New York Times story detailing President Obama’s decision to pare back on anti-smog rules. We’re in 2011, but it’s the same story that it’s been for decades. When political fortunes go south and the economy sputters, hard-won environmental regulation is recast as reckless oversight so our government leaders can water them down, to hell wilth the consequences. Maybe some day Uncle Sam will, green-wise, grow up to the point it stops creating false choices. Maybe.

From the New York Times (with their standard picture of a polluted L.A. skyline):

“The summons from the president came without warning the Thursday before Labor Day. As she was driven the four blocks to the White House, Lisa P. Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, suspected that the news would not be good. What she did not see coming was a rare public rebuke the president was about to deliver by rejecting her proposal to tighten the national standard for smog. The half-hour meeting in the Oval Office was not a negotiation; the president had decided against ratcheting up the ozone rule because of the cost and the uncertainty it would impose on industry and local governments. He clearly understood the scientific, legal and political implications. He told Ms. Jackson that she would have an opportunity to revisit the Clean Air Act standard in 2013 — if they were still in office. We are just not going to do this now, he said … The full retreat on the smog standard was the first and most important environmental decision of the presidential campaign season that is now fully under way. An examination of that decision, based on interviews with lobbyists on both sides, former officials and policy makers at the upper reaches of the White House and the E.P.A., illustrates the new calculus on political and policy shifts as the White House sharpens its focus on the president’s re-election …”

Our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution, makes clear we are on history’s hamster wheel here.

Green groups accuse EPA of apathy monitoring L.A. ozone levels

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

* Over the years, environmental lawsuits have frequently sought to force pollution authorities to invoke regulatiions more intensely, explain their actions, audit their programs or put the heat to polluters. Sometimes they succeed, often they do not, because courts often prove a poor method of guarding the environment and the people who depend on it. Either way, the lawyers are back again, this time with acccsations that Washington hasn’t adequately determined whether ozone limits are being met.

- From the L.A. Times blog:

“Environmental and public health groups filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday, saying the agency has failed to force officials to crack down on smog in the Los Angeles Basin. The suit contends the EPA missed a May deadline to, in effect, determine whether the ozone level in the region is hazardous to public health. Such a determination could trigger tougher limits on pollution from cars, trucks, ships and refineries. The EPA did not comment on the lawsuit, which was filed by Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Desert Citizens Against Pollution, Communities for a Better Environment and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among other groups. A similar suit challenging whether San Joaquin Valley had met the ozone standard was filed Monday on behalf of the Sierra Club and Medical Advocates for Healthy Air. The Los Angeles area has a long history of elevated ozone levels, and the American Lung Assn., in its annual State of the Air report, recently determined that the region has the highest ozone level in the nation. “Angelenos continue to breathe smoggy air that makes people sick, forcing mothers to question whether to allow children to play outside on dirty air days,” said Adrian Martinez, an attorney for the NRDC. “These are choices mothers should not have to make.” Under the federal Clean Air Act, Congress established a one-hour standard for ozone pollution, a principal contributor to smog, and the EPA was to certify no later than May whether air districts had met the standard. If the EPA were to determine that the region does not meet the national standard, then the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the basin’s regulatory agency, would have one year to submit a clean-up plan …”

Stay tuned for the dockets. And read our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles for a smokestack more context and stories.

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.

Smogtown authors on Jon Wiener show on KFPK (90.7 FM) yesterday: beware, as he noted, the “Dutchman.”

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


You can hear the entire interview on KPFK by clicking here and then searching for Smogtown. Or you can go to the station’s podcast center here. Wiener, a noted writer and documentary maker (think The U.S. Versus John Lennon) asked piercing questions, with a particular focus on corporate-tainted science and pollution-induced illness. Bill did great. Chip, for some reason, perhaps sleep deprivation, stumbled a bit in aBushesque way.

Incidentally, Jon will be moderating a climate change panel that will include Bill at the upcoming Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on Sunday, April 26 on the UCLA campus in West Los Angeles. Chip will be on a different panel — one devoted to Los Angeles “unknown history” — on Saturday, April 25.

For your reading pleasure, may we present these selected articles:

* Our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, made another book recommendation list, this time for Earth Day. We’re flattered. (Kauai News)

* U.S. bracing for a drop in gasoline demand. (Wall Street Journal)

* L.A. City Hall teaming up with USC, UCLA and Caltech on environmental issues. This echoes our smoggy past. (L.A. Times)

* The new way of moving around cities. Three wheels up! (New York Times)

Mishmash Wednesday – step up right now and get your hot links

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009


* Air pollution and headaches. A connection, or stretch? LA Times story Here’s an MSNBC piece about traffic smog & heart attacks.

* A dimming world … MSBNC reports.

* Haven’t we heard this one before? Mother Nature Network post.

* A greenhouse gas market similar to Southern California’s smog market is coming, and the auditors are going to be kept busy. Washington Post story

* Beware the danger of cheap, recession-pummeled gasoline prices. It’s haunted us before, and seems to be happening again. L.A. Times story.

* Global warming California-style won’t wait: story

Wonder what it was like to live in L.A.’s smoggy past?

Monday, November 17th, 2008

The recent brushfires that devastated sections of Montecito, Sylmar and the point at which L.A., Orange and Riverside Counties merge give someone not alive back then a taste of how one’s everyday routine was influenced by nauseating air pollution. The health warnings are pretty familiar. Stay indoors. Avoid strenous outside exertion if you can’t be home-bound. Wear a mask if need be. Doctors treating asthmatics and people with other respiratory illnesses were up to their stethosccopes in work and worry. Though the medical knowledge and today’s digitally run instant communications certainly give us a edge over smog-alert days, the premise is the same. Inhaling air chalked with particulates, soot, metals and so forth imperils your respiratory and immune system, just as it did inhaling hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide and other smog chemicals.

From a recent Daily News of Los Angeles story:

” Smog officials warned residents today to avoid unhealthy ash and smoke from Southland wildfires by staying inside. Meanwhile, Los Angeles school officials were pondering whether to close some campuses in the San Fernando Valley because of swirling soot and the haze of smoke. “Obviously, if you can see falling ash, the air quality is pretty poor,” said Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. “Everyone should remain indoors.” The AQMD warned that air quality will remain unhealthful in Orange and Los Angeles counties through Monday because of ongoing wildfires stoked by Santa Ana winds. In areas affected by the fires, the agency urged everyone to avoid vigorous outdoor and indoor exertion. People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and young children should remain indoors, Atwood said, and people in smoke-impacted areas should keep their windows and doors closed with the air conditioning on …”

Courtesy of Southern California’s inversion-layer past, anybody with a Web browser can retrieve instant air quality conditions and forecasts. Here’s the link to the AQMD air quality monitoring site. If only they had it back when L.A. really was Smogtown. We cover this subject about warning and health and all the messy implications in our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles.