Into the Fire

In response to John Ledbetter's letter ["Breathe Easy With Emission Testing," July 8, 2010], welcome to a populace extremely proud of ignorance. John, son, have you ever jumped from the skillet into the fire! You came from Dallas looking for cleaner air? You will learn it's popular here for inhabitants to self-describe themselves as "independent," "strong-willed," etc; however, Tennessee has long ranked close to the bottom in educational rankings. How soon you've discovered how it shows.

It continually amazes me how folks live in an area with some of the consistently dirtiest air in the country (with resulting high rates of related illnesses) and so nonchalantly go about their lives, making little to (in most cases) no effort to improve the situation!

It's very popular here to blame air quality problems on TVA, and while TVA is a huge problem—by the way, how aware are we of electrical conservation? Tennessee is close to first in highest per capita usage in the country, causing the burning of ever-more coal—there are so many small changes can be made that are not painful which would improve air quality. As filthy as coal and wood are in terms of particulate pollution, nuclear is not an option without first solving some very major issues with it.  Over the years, I've sent several e-mails to the city and county mayors and the University of Tennessee. I've questioned why, on bad air alert days, we have state/city/county/university sanctioned mowing, weedeating, etc. I point out how many states have greatly reduced and, in some areas eliminated, mowing.  Highway medians with knee-high grass/vegetation/wildflowers waving in the breeze are quite attractive. Of course, by implementing that practice here, we'd be deprived of the beauty of seeing all the litter! Some folks may not know (that education thing again) that the average mower emits the same particulate pollution in one hour as a car traveling 55 mph for eight hours!

Why in the name of sanity are these entities entrusted and charged with protecting and bettering citizens' lives endorsing the addition of so much more polluted air poured into the mix on days when there are official warnings that the air is not healthy to breathe? How difficult should it be to implement policies prohibiting unnecessary and damaging practices such as these, at least on official bad air days? Why do private citizens engage in the same ill-advised activities? Is it due to that aforementioned "independence," "strong will," or is it uncaring ignorance? I've had folks tell me their contribution to air quality problems is no more than a tiny drop in the bucket.... duh, enough tiny drops and the bucket overflows!

I drive fewer than 5,000 miles per year and mow approximately one to two hours per month. My large yard is always presentable. My electric bill ranges from $25-40. I could do better and always strive to make my drop tinier. I experience no pain from living such as to arrive at the above figures. I am not a retired stay-at-home, but commute to a five-day a week job (no public trans available).

And John, you actually thought this area would be so progressive as to have emissions testing? Everyone believing in clean air, try writing/calling the mayors, councilpeople and the university. I've always at least had the courtesy of a reply from the city mayor (only) agreeing that, yes, they've done nothing.

Sadly, this letter only deals with one small way we can improve air quality. Fortunately (and at the same time unfortunately) there are so many other ways. Think about it. Educate yourself. You can be independent, strong-willed, and educated!

Rick York