Wood Smoke Nazis?
Cleaning our air hasn’t been easy. We’ve had to provide proof that air pollution is bad for our health, pass laws, and create new technologies. But our own perceptions and bad habits have proven to be the biggest challenges we’ve had to overcome.
Whenever a new regulation is passed to eliminate or control a source of air pollution, there is an outcry from industry and the public. Some people claim that it is wrong for the government to interfere with private rights, while others protest that such measures are too expensive. Air pollution laws have been called “communist”, “fascist”, and even “Orwellian”.
For example, when trash burning was banned, people were enraged that they couldn’t burn their own garbage in their own backyards. There were complaints about the cost of proper waste disposal. Similarly, when measures were taken to lessen automobile pollution, people were up in arms about catalytic converters and the smog check program, with many claiming that these measures were going to make it too expensive to drive their cars. More recently, people have protested that they have a “constitutional right” to smoke in public places, like restaurants and airports.
Looking back, it seems kind of crazy to think that we as a society fought these laws and regulations. We have seen such drastic improvements in our air quality and our public health that in hindsight, few would argue that these steps were unnecessary or unreasonable.
Wood smoke is a lot like these other types of air pollution. Most people haven’t yet recognized the harm that wood smoke has on public health or the need to reduce its dangerous impact on our air quality. In California, as well as around the country and the world, air quality officials are starting to wake up to the fact that wood smoke is a major source of particulate matter and other pollutants, as well as a major contributor to global warming. As such, it needs to be curbed in order to continue improving our air quality and reduce human contributions to global warming.
Just as people once argued that open garbage burning and cigarette smoking were personal rights and that the resulting smoke was innocuous to the community, they are now decrying regulations against burning wood in fireplaces and wood stoves as invasions of their privacy. Some even compare our public health agencies to Nazis (as seen in this recent local news story).
We at Families for Clean Air believe that ten years from now, when we look back at these early efforts to curb wood burning pollution, we’ll all agree that it was worth our trouble and effort–and that the relatively small impact it had on our habits and wallets was more than worthwhile.