The air is thick this morning, my first day back to work since vacation. It’s dense with water vapor and a stagnant quality that makes it hard to breathe. It feels like the air trapped by plastic wrapped tight over the top of a bowl of left-overs that mistakenly sat overnight on the kitchen counter.
I was noticing the unusually thick smell of auto-exhaust when the three dump trucks passed me, each blowing an opaque cloud of soot. These clouds hung in the asphalt corridor between the trees as I made my way through them. Consciously, I tried to breathe shallow, but instinctively, I breathed deeply — I was in middle of a two-mile climb with more than 40lbs of gear and bike to haul.
A gray and brown swirl of soot and grime circles the drain of the shower at work. The same particulate dulls the brightness of my otherwise yellow jersey. I wonder what breathing that stuff does to my lungs, then wonder why I ride in a place where days like today are the norm.
Durham’s air is thick for the same reason that exhaust clouds hang in the Cornwallis Rd corridor — the wind just doesn’t blow.
In the three cities I visited recently there was a constant breeze. The Gulf-born winds across Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida constantly scrub the air. Residents of those cities can exercise outdoors without concern for ozone pollution. Even Atlanta, a city that seems more red — Republicans, Coca-Cola, banking — than green, enjoys the benefits of clean air because the wind is constantly moving across the sky.
So, why not move to one of those places? If I am going to bike commute, then, in Durham, that means filling my lungs with voluminous amounts of toxins every morning and evening. And even though public health officials think that the benefits of a regimen of exercise outweighs the individual costs of exposure to poor air quality, just think how much better it would be to ride every day in clean air. Such thoughts are immanent on my daily ride to work.
But to bail on Durham and move someplace else is to give up on the work that needs doing here. It’s the moral equivalent of abandonment: rather than take responsibility for the mess you’ve made, just move somewhere else and start over. Communities are not fungible. If I don’t do what I can to create a clean environment here in Durham, I’ll not likely appreciate Tampa’s environment either.
A better idea is to love the place where you are. Durham’s Greenhouse Gas Plan needs support, and I’m sure there’s something in your town, in your place, that needs your support too. (Link updated; thanks Ellen)
This week’s Carnival of the Green includes submissions from others who are rolling up their sleeves, unafraid of real work.
At Behavioral Ecology, Matt MacManes asks whether the Moss Landing power plant (near San Francisco) is killing marine mammals? “The power plant releases 900,000 tons of CO2, 60 tons of NOx and 4 tons of SO2 into the atmosphere yearly, and 1.2 billion gallons of hot water (50C) DAILY into the ocean,” he says. “ Why do we continue to operate it? Will darkness fall upon San Francisco if we closed it?”
Nina at Queercents asks us to consider the effects of congestion pricing in major metropolitan areas of the United States. “Have you heard the buzz about congestion pricing?” she asks. “What can $8 a day buy you? Soon, the right to drive into NYC.”
The Coding Grasshopper has a follow up to a documentary about Carbon offsetting and whether it actually works.
Leon, at Sox First, takes a look at ways that climate change is affected corporate board room discussions. “Climate change is shaping up the big corporate governance issue of the 21st Century,” he says.
David at The Good Human asks a question I’ve wondered myself — “Why In The World Do Businesses Leave Their Lights On At Night?”
One more corporate concern is whether Burning Man is selling out?
Chris Baskind at Lighter Footstep reminds homeowners that traditional milk-based paints are a safe, non-toxic alternative to interior paints containing petroleum products and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Tracy at Eco Street offers tips to give your garden a green makeover.
The finale for this week’s Carnival is an entry that wasn’t submitted — just one I came across while reading. The author asks a pertinent question that bears repeating in this new wave of popular environmentalism: whether the green aspects of green consumerism outweigh the costs of consumerism itself. Like her, I too am skeptical. Living green is about simplifying one’s demands of the world, and green consumerism is still consumerism. How do we get out of this box?
Thanks to everyone who submitted entries, and thanks for the work you all do to raise the profile of environmental issues. Enjoy this week’s Carnival. Next week’s host is the Organic Researcher.