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Cleaning the Air

Truth Matters

When colonial Americans took a deep breath, was the air they took in cleaner or dirtier than it is today? The immediate gut reaction is probably that it was cleaner since it predated the industrial revolution. That question is not nearly as much of a slam dunk, however, as you might think. The era also predated fire engines, tanker trucks, and airplanes equipped with fire retardants. Much of the area that came to comprise America was made up of virgin forests subject to lightning strikes. When fires occurred, they kept on burning until they ran out of fuel or encountered a heavy rain.

Think about the air quality here in the Valley when sugar cane is being burned or when farmers in southern Mexico clear their land by starting controlled fires (and the smoke heads in our direction). There were some severe air quality problems in colonial America.

Today, of course, we strive for cleaner air and see CO2 in the air as a threat to humanity that is causing climate change. We, therefore, legislate and spend copious amounts of money to reduce factory and automotive emissions. The Green New Deal goes so far as to advocate killing cows to limit escape into the environment of their digestive gasses. The question needs to be asked, however, as to whether our policies are counter productive.



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