Happy Earth Day – Air Quality Advisory

Happy Earth Day!

In the home state of the father of Earth Day, Senator/Governor Gaylord Nelson, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has issued an air quality advisory. “People in sensitive groups should cut back on strenuous activities and those with lung diseases should be attentive to cardiac … or respiratory symptoms.”

According to another Wisconsinite, Dr. Jonathan Patz (pdf), we can expect more air quality advisories as the impacts climate change intensify. Higher temperatures lead to higher levels ozone smog, which lowers air quality and has negative health implications for people. This effect is accentuated in urban areas, with buildings and pavement absorbing heat creating “heat islands” in the summer with temperatures 7 to 8 degrees warmer in urban cores. This presents quite the challenge, as one of the tools to combat climate change is human-powered transportation; compromised air quality makes this more difficult – leading to more emissions.

The internet is flooded with ways to “make every day Earth Day,” but recycling and changing light bulbs is only going to get us so far. What is required are concrete commitments – not abstract support – to change our lifestyles in meaningful and often inconvenient ways. Absent that, we can look forward to celebrating future Earth Days under the pall of ozone alerts.

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