“Time to open our eyes . . . and windows”
Letter by Cathy Baiton, printed in the Lethbridge Herald (lethbridgeherald.com) Letters – July 7, 2015
During the recent heat wave, some were forced indoors by smoke – deprived of clean air and the right to open windows. Such abuse must stop.
Much has changed since 2006 when a former council repealed Bylaw 4489 which had banned all open burning. As we know now, burning anything affects both climate and health. Compared to natural gas, itself not without environmental impacts, burning wood emits far more lung-damaging soot and, according to the Sierra Club, about twice the CO2.
New York’s city council has passed environmental legislation aimed at phasing out wood stoves/fireplaces and wood-burning pizza ovens. Will Lethbridge take the same progressive step, along with banning needless outdoor burning? If not now, when?
Biomass smoke is one important concern of the UN’s Climate and Clean Air Coalition – and of the World Health Organization’s “Breathe Life” campaign, launched as part of the World Health Assembly’s recent landmark resolution on air pollution, calling on member countries to take real action that supports positive change.
Would we drink unclean water? Why accept dirty air? Many residents suffered from wildfire smoke in May – yet few speak up about localized particulates from chimneys and firepits. And while Lethbridge’s anti-smoking bans are essential, building the truly “safe, healthy, vibrant” and environmentally responsible city envisioned in Lethbridge’s Integrated Community Sustainability Plan/Municipal Development Plan, means having smoke-free neighbourhoods, too.
Some people shrug when hearing the WHO now calls air pollution the world’s leading environmental health risk. We can no longer ignore a cause of global deaths greater than malaria and AIDS combined.
A personal statement by U.S. President Barack Obama, recalling his daughter Malia’s childhood asthma, speaks to the human face of climate change and air pollution:
What I can relate to is the fear a parent has, when your four-year-old daughter comes up to you and says, ‘Daddy, I’m having trouble breathing.’ The fright you feel is terrible.”
What more compelling argument do we need for making sure everyone can breathe healthy air?
It’s time to open our eyes . . . and our windows.