What Matters Most

Do you really know someone who has asthma? I didn't until I got married. So for some 30 years I didn't understand what it felt like not to be able to breathe. Now I know too well as both my children, who have grown up in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, can't get air while playing soccer or running a mile for P.E. My kids know what an Orange or Red Alert means. No recess—just board games or a tired movie inside while the smog settles into our burb.

In March of next year, the U.S. EPA will determine the status of North Texas' 9-county nonattainment (moderate) area. This area does not currently meet the 85 ppb standard, which is about to be replaced by the 75 ppb standard. (There may be some discussion of lowering the air quality attainment to 65 ppb and that level is where the metroplex sits now when we are just living, not working.)

8-Hour Ozone Historical Trends
DFW Nonattainment Area

I want to do something about this, but I'm not advocating shutting down industries or requiring expensive air pollution controls. That's someone else's job. (At least one business that was considering locating to my area was disenchanted by the smog levels that have taken up residence.) I simply want to carpool. The hard part is finding someone of like mind. I asked a colleague if she would be interested, but her schedule is too tight. I bummed a ride to the office with a co-worker once and mentioned carpool but really didn't get any "OK-let's-do-it" feedback.

The "trust factor" is a stumbling block that even Jennifer Cohen, project director for the Clean Air Coalition, has encountered while trying to encourage individuals and businesses in the region to, among other things, telecommute, carpool, take public transportation, or ride a bike to get to where they need to go.

Is carpooling not a simple idea after all? Cohen explained that the roundtrip commute from Fort Worth to Dallas is about 40 miles a day. By carpooling, a person can reduce 1 ton of emissions over one year. An elephant weighs about a ton, she said, adding that you could eliminate the elephant off the chest of someone who has asthma. Really.

What's the air like in your neck of the woods?

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on May 04, 2009