6:40 am, February 25, 2017: The sun is very very bright, yet looking over at the mountains, 35, 40 miles away, they appear indistinct, hazy. The sky is not pure blue, it is whiter. And the haze takes away the sharpness of things in the valley.
Friends have visited here from various parts of the country who would look out at such a morning and comment smugly and knowingly about “the smog.”
But they were wrong. I first came here to live in 1978. I worked that year on a building that took me up to tie steel, place forms, pour cocrete and remove forms. Each morning there in the San Bernardino Valley would be clear but a tan cloud hovered to the West. As the morning came on it moved East until by noon the mountains, which there were only ten or fifteen miles away were completely hidden. “The Smog” had come out to engulf us.
This is Southern California, we are on the edge of the “Los Angeles Basin” For a long time that brown cloud hovered over LA. But as population grew it became larger and came this way. This is a large natural basin formed by the Pacific on one side and mountains. Real ones, The San Gabriels to the North, The San Bernardinos here in the East and the Clevelands in the South. The air moves around trapped in this basin.
When the earliest Spanish settlers arrived they found native campfires combining with the frequent common fires in the mountains and the normal coastal fog to create a natural “Smog. It was here long before cars and freeways.
Cars and freeways, industry, trains and buses all just made it worse. For many years now California and the Air Resources Board have sought ways to reduce air pollution. Sometimes it seemed nit picky, micro-managing, but it added up. With documented success. We pay a little more for our cars with more controls, we pay a little more for gas. Industries of many kinds must have a plan to reduce effluent. And today smog is largely a thing of the past. Compared to 1978 and my memory, this is not smog.
With the changes in Washington that set the weight toward “Big Bidness” and “Freedom” legislators would remove the very protections that have given us 12 million or so Southern Californians better air to breath. All this so a few diesel trucks can roll a little cheaper, a factory can pollute a little more with the promise of “jobs.”
It’s a lot of people, freeways can be a beast, but it’s our beast and we are working on it. We’re California and we know California. And those mountains over there? That’s humidity, haze, water vapor and we’re glad it’s there. “From the mountains to the sea” it comes together here.