Many parts of the country have been plagued with hazardous and extremely unhealthy air quality this summer since early June. The major culprit of the unhealthy air quality has stemmed from the intense wildfires still plaguing Canada. The wildfires continue to negatively influence our air based on wind direction. Only until recently have the Air Quality Index (AQI) numbers been widely advertised not as a new tool, but rather a necessary one that everyone should be aware of.
Additionally, more than half the country has been plagued with record breaking heat. Many will argue that there are things that we can do to fight both wildfires and excessive heat along with the impacts both things bring. However, many scientists and climate change advocates also contend that we as a society bear equal blame and ownership over how this crisis is continuing to worsen for many disadvantaged communities.
After discussing the devastating impact of the high AQI numbers last month, just several weeks later, the air quality for NYC was 340. This time due to July 4 celebrations involving the use of fireworks. This helped to contribute to the high AQI due to the lack of wind, dense population, and humidity, which caused smoke from the fireworks to remain stagnant in the air. Everyone, including local leaders seemed to be okay with this issue and went ahead with major firework displays, despite knowing the possible ramifications.
We have yet to realize the potential long term impacts the hazardous air will have on certain populations, yet we as humans carelessly created another air crisis just for the sake of a spectacle in the sky. Some may argue this careless behavior was driven by money and human satisfaction, not by science or responsibility. Increasing our carbon footprint, smoking, excessive use of energy, and other factors have impacted our climate with longer warmer periods, and our oceans. Just this week, an area in Florida’s water temperature reached 100 degrees.
We have many tools in our arsenal at our disposal to take charge of the climate crisis, however, we continue to knowingly engage and encourage reckless behavior. We have created an environment where we say fireworks are illegal in some areas yet, the danger and harm whether legally done or not are the same. A few moments of a show have long lasting and damaging effects on some. Continuing to build in densely populated areas while ignoring repercussions like changing landscapes or natural habitats, and straining power grids help to create reckless attitudes towards a very real world issue.
Enforcement of illegal fireworks and accountability measures for companies to do more to support energy efficiency is now desperately needed. Members of communities with allergies or underlying respiratory and health issues should not have to suffer needlessly due to issues that can be remedied. A city’s recent decision to move forward with a Congestion Pricing plan that was designed to limit traffic going into certain parts of the city was created under the premise of being more climate friendly. In actuality, the plan will create more traffic in already burdened outer areas. This will ultimately cause outlying areas of the city already prone to pollution, unhealthy air quality, and higher rates of respiratory illnesses such as asthma to suffer due to corporate greed and the interests of those with wealth.
While it may seem like society is doomed to fall victim to the fallout of climate change, there is still hope. Educating ourselves on the impact and on how we can slow the negative trajectory can go a long way. Knowing that wildfires will become a bigger contributor to environmental hazards, we can and should take measures to mitigate the issue by limiting what we contribute to the air such as fireworks, air shows, promotion of public smoking, etc. We can educate ourselves on how to slow the impacts of climate change and what each of us can do to help solve the problems that will continue to impact future generations.
Additionally, we have the right to question leadership’s motives to ensure that all are treated equally under supposed climate change initiatives and not left to suffer more to benefit more affluent areas. Failure to do so will ultimately impact working class communities, marginalized communities, and communities of color more.