2007-08-09 / Letters to the Editor

Causing our own air quality issues

As we swelter through yet another week of steamy tropical air here in Jamestown, the reality of our situation bores in like a tick bite. The degree-day data- a yardstick of year-to-year temperature averages- reveals yet another "above average" temperature profile.

Last January, we had daffodils blooming, and orange hazy sunsets. Temperatures at that point were breaking all records. The polar ice cap- that great battery of cold that has moderated our climate for millennia has vanished by 40 percent since 1960. It's expected to disappear completely in the next few decades.

Our climate is changing fast- much faster than anyone predicted. So far, other than hotter summers and warm wet winters, Jamestown has been relatively unscathed. I fear that the good luck streak can't last.

Every day, by way of our current lifestyles, we pump hundreds of tons of greenhouse gasses into the air that we breathe. During these times of stagnant air, the limitations of our atmosphere are apparent.

There have been an increasing number of "Ozone Alert" days in Rhode Island these are times when our own effluent lingers to poison us instead of blowing away to poison others downwind. Air is a fluid. Air pollution is like floating sewage that we draw into our bodies by breathing. During July and August, we are in a river of airborne sewage that is dumped in by electric utilities and millions of gas guzzling automobiles 24 hours downwind of us in Virginia and the Carolinas. This is why the haze comes in off the ocean, our rain is more acid than orange juice, and boats left at moorings for a few weeks get covered in black. It's why asthma is such a problem for today's children.

Thirteen miles north of Jamestown lies the largest source of air pollution in the northeast. The coal-fired power plant at Brayton Point in Somerset, Mass. is equivalent to a half million automobiles running 24/7 year round. During times of still air in summer, the effects are palpable- the smog stagnates making breathing difficult.

This together with all of the gigantic SUVs racing around the island is why we have the eighth worst air quality in the country- right here in Jamestown. One American SUV or full sized pickup pollutes at five to ten times the rate of a smaller car.

Drivers: If you care about yourself or your children, you know what to do. Sell the SUV. Electricity users: You can pay a little bit extra each month for clean power; read about it on your electric bill.

Does a Katrina have to destroy Jamestown in order to get our attention? The writing is on the wall- it is up to us to be responsible for ourselves. To learn more go to: Airnow.gov, Cleartheair.org, Clf.org or Ripower.org.

Will Tuthill Jamestown

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