One of Boise and the Treasure Valley’s defining characteristics has been its pro-active efforts to address air pollution.
In state that long opposed environmental rules stricter than those imposed by federal authorities, valley residents and their leaders from both political parties have taken on pollution that threatens health and the economy.
Mayor Dirk Kempthorne took the lead in pushing for wood stove burning regulations and guidelines that reduced pollution in the 1980s. Ada County was joined by Canyon County in vehicle testing under the leadership of the Idaho Legislature and Gov. Butch Otter.
Contrast that to China, where air pollution couldn’t even be reported due to censorship. When I visited Beijing in 2010 the air pollution was so thick from coal-fired power plants and cars that a gray cloud engulfed the city.
It was pollution levels like I had not seen since the 1960s in the Chicago area before the Clean Air Act was passed. It was like breathing the air in Yellowstone's fires in 1988.
This month pollution levels in Beijing rose so high that foreign embassies reported the air was hazardous or even deadly. But the Chinese government, in a clear turnabout, allowed local press to report the problem that of course was so bad every resident knew it.
China Daily reported today on how air pollution and efforts to cut it immediately could hurt the economy. Bad air in Boise is consider 150 micrograms per meter over 24 hours.
In Beijing this week it was 900 micrograms per meter.