Thursday, January 6, 2011


Our area is having another "yellow alert" air quality day. To us common folk, that means the air isn't necessarily unhealthy to breathe quite yet. "... However, some sensitive people including children, the elderly, those with existing health conditions, and people who work, exercise or spend extensive time outdoors may want to take precaution."

It could be worse; at least we don't have Red Alert air, like those poor schmoes down along the Wasatch Front.

They like to call it "haze." Sounds prettier than "smog."

ZZ Top referred to it as "Squank."

Woman, grab your children, run and hide.
Don't let it catch up with you.
You gotta fight it to stay alive,
and if it gets you, man, you're through.

It smells so rotten and rank.
Well, everybody calls it the squank.

It's sick, depressin', gettin' bigger all the time.
Don't help it any way you can.
It's grey and brown and sometimes lime
and it's spreadin' all over the land.

And soon we'll be all breathin' out of tanks
if somethin' ain't done about the squank.

The meanest thing the world's ever bred
by me and you and kinfolk too.
A monster can't live unless it's fed,
and it's being fed by me and you.

And soon it's gonna leave the world blank,
and we'll all be erased by the squank.

(Golly! ZZ Top - the little ole band from Texas - Environmental Activists! Who knew?!!)

In these parts (probably 'most everywhere), three things combine to cause the squank: 1) geography, 2) atmospheric conditions, 3) pollutants.

We obviously have no control over the geography, since lots of people would complain if the mountains were flattened. (The mountains tend to "trap" bad air in the valley, under an inversion-type air pattern, which we deal with now and then. That's the "atmospheric condition.") Of course, humans and human activity are the biggest contributors of pollutants, unless there's a volcano or earthquake or prairie fire going on.

Burning is banned. Makes sense. (And honestly, the pollution is less of a problem now than when most houses were heated by coal or stove oil.)

But it always cracks me up that they advise people (obviously with a nudge and a wink) to limit car trips, combine driving errands, etc. Yeah, right! Like people are going to voluntarily inconvenience themselves over something as trivial as poison air! That ain't gonna happen.


Bob T said...

A few years ago when we had an orange alert one of my co-workers stated that I shouldn't be riding as it would be bad for my health. However, the suggested alternative (driving) would have only made the problem worse for everyone.

db said...

I've had the exact same situation/conversation, Bob. I think my eyes almost rolled out of my head.