Why the Clean Air Act Benefits Everyone
Pollution- A Tragedy of the Commons
Donora, PA: Business as Usual at All Costs, Even Life
I woke up surrounded by a fog so thick I could barely see two steps in front of me and there is a smell in the air that just isn't right. The air has taken on an almost solid like quality. I know something is wrong but I am not sure what and I am beginning to feel ill.
I wanted to look around for anyone else who might know what is going on but I couldn't find anyone, it is so hard to see anything. With every step I take, I take a breath, and each time my breath feels shorter and more painful. I am suffocating.
It is October 1948 and I am a citizen of Donora PA suffering the deadly effects of air pollution. I am breathing in chemicals from a smog that has engulfed the town that I call home. This monster is doing it's best to kill me.
If I am one of 20 really unlucky people I will die, but I could be one of the 6000 who fall ill but are spared. More than likely though I will go onto suffer other long term related illness like asthma, heart disease, even cancer.
Much like in the future, areas of the government are rife with enablers of businesses dangerous wrongdoings so it won't be very surprising when the US Public Health Service will say the sulfur dioxide, fluoride, and carbon monoxide in the air has nothing to do with the deaths and illnesses. Rather it will only be attributed to bad case of temperature inversion or " an act of God". They won't ever officially talk about the air pollution even though autopsies showed lethal levels of fluorine, 20 times the safe levels and at some point in the future the records of this event with the Public Health Service will vanish.
And the place that I call home? It will continue to maintain an above average mortality rate even 10 years later.
Donora, PA: Fog At Noon
Why We Need the Clear Air Act to Regulate Emmissions
As a business owner I could never comprehend exploiting people or even killing people in the name of profit, but sadly it is a common practice. Whether is it air pollution, water pollution, or exploitation of 3rd world countires and their violent leaders and instability. It seems profit is the new God for many large business.
Ironically, it was a Republican President, Richard Nixon, who would enact the Clean Air Act in 1970. Many people would argue that when the federal government first began trying to regulate air pollution in 1955 it was overstepping it's bounds but air pollution has proven to be transboundry and as such effects all states.
People didn't just die in the town of Donora, PA but in other places as well. 4000 people died in London from air pollution, the World Health Organization estimates that 2.4 million people die of premature deaths each year due to the effects of air pollution. Many more still will suffer from various ailments attributed to air pollution such as asthma and heart disease. According to the WHO the standards in place- while making a difference- are still not substantial enough to reduce the burden of disease. They also stress the vital importance of reducing emissions as well in order to maintain health, social, and economical stability.
Currently, Republicans are working to enact a law that prevents the EPA from regulating green houses gases that would also change the designation for carbon dioxide which is now considered a pollutant. The Supreme Court decided that carbon dioxide was indeed a pollutant based on science and it was within the rights of the EPA to regulate it, yet we have legislators trying to decide scientific issues based on economical reasoning. It is worthwhile to consider that the EPA has been regulating industry without economical impact thus far.
Many people are concerned about the financial implication for restrictions on greenhouse gases but is what is left out is the financial benefits of moving our country into the future by advancing clean air technologies and manufacturing. While the financial implications are understandable the charges are coming from the companies that loathe to make any changes. Furthermore negative financial impact has been theorized by companies but such stated implications have not been confirmed without independent studies.
The other aspect of this is that some still deny the science behind Climate Change. While it can be said the weather patterns have normal fluctuations over the years the carbon dioxide levels have never been as high as they are now with available figures going back 650,000 years(*NASA). What is not in doubt is the knowledge that high levels of greenhouse gases do effect weather patterns. Already we can see the implications in many parts of the world.
Regulating emissions is more about what is doing right by this planet and it's inhabitants then doing what is right by profit. Instead of closing our eyes to the atrocities that climate change will have, and closing out the discussion, we need to be creative and find ways to protect out planet and modernize the economy of the industry.
We need to be truthful about our impact on others when we choose to do what is necessary and instead choose to do what is easier.
How much is one life worth? 10? 20? How about other peoples quality of life? Are we will to sacrifices lives in order to avoid improving our technology, to continue business as usual?