Here's a sneak preview of our Wednesday editorial.
The Treasure Valley’s smoke-a-thon — the hazy grayish days, punctuated by improbably pink sunrises and sunsets — is beyond our control.
Our air, after all, is just the air that has drifted our way from fire country. And we’re surrounded, at the mercy of wildfires just outside the Valley, and others as far away as California.
So, go ahead and blame California, if you find cathartic value in it. Then take a deep breath (if you’re game) and keep things in perspective.
We’ve had bad air like this before.
And we’ll have bad air like this again.
No matter what we do.
There is simply no avoiding it.
The Valley’s air quality problems are a function of topography. The Foothills that, under better conditions, provide a scenic backdrop and an urban recreational getaway also trap polluted air. When bad air comes into this valley, during fire season or the winter inversion season, we just have to wait for windy conditions or a strong weather system to push out the smoke and the grit.
This is no comfort to those most likely to be affected by air pollution: people who suffer with lung disease or heart disease. And this isn’t news to anyone who has lived in the Valley for very long.
But it does serve as a call to action.
When it comes to air quality, we need to control what we can control.
That means knowing and following the rules about open burning and outdoor burning. Burn bans kick in during less serious, “yellow” air alerts, unlike the current air alert, which has fluctuated between “orange” and “red.” Learn your local rules — but don’t plan on any open burning any time soon.
It also means driving smarter. Walking or biking may be out of the question — or at least unpleasant — when thick pollution sets in. So find ways to conserve gas and reduce tailpipe emissions: combine trips, arrange car pools, limit idling and use your air conditioner as sparingly as possible. (Yes, the latter is easier said than done, especially when high temperatures continue to flirt with triple digits. But, as the state Department of Environmental Quality notes, running an air conditioner can reduce a car’s fuel efficiency by 20 percent.)
Wildfires are beyond our control. Hot, stagnant weather is a fact of midsummer life in the Valley. We can’t do a thing about either. But if we can take some common-sense steps and get into some common-sense habits, we can do our share to keep a bad situation from getting worse.
And isn’t that a little more constructive than blaming California?