Every citizen deserves to breathe clean air


Every citizen deserves to breathe clean air

Letter by Cathy Baiton, printed in the Lethbridge Herald (lethbridgeherald.com)  Letters, June 12, 2016

On a city street, lighting a wood fire creates an avoidable fire hazard. It also emits high levels of climate-forcing carbon and soot. There’s never a good time to pollute the air that neighbours breathe, and this warm June 7 evening is no exception. At the close of a hot, sunny day like today, residents must be able to open their own windows and to enjoy fresh breezes outside.

ALA | FightingForAir.org - "I want to play outside."

Image source: American Lung Association | FightingForAir.org


Science has established that atmospheric pollution ultimately hurts every living thing. Doesn’t this make Lethbridge’s current bylaw permitting unnecessary outdoor wood fires in residential areas untenable? In a neighbourhood setting, how is it possible to deliberately inflict carcinogenic emissions on others “in a responsible and considerate manner?” as the city’s website presently suggests?

Unfortunately (and even if inadvertently), Bylaw 5858 enables selfishness. In Lethbridge as in many other places, while some suffer in silence, others are choosing to speak up. For example, on the City of Lethbridge Facebook page, citizens have shared concerns about having their health, and the peaceful enjoyment of their own properties, negatively affected by a neighbour’s wood burning, and having toxic wood smoke enter a baby’s room. Why should the oppression that is residential smoke pollution ever be forced upon anyone, especially when positive efforts are being made to protect the environment in so many other ways?

This summer, I hope that more people, including community leaders, will stand up for everyone’s equal access and equal right to a healthy urban environment. Clean air protection is a matter of environmental justice and of social justice. Fostering a vibrant, healthy and safe city for all does require protecting each person’s inalienable right to breathe healthy air. Abolishing a destructive and misguided bylaw that puts recreational burning above public wellness and safety would seem to be an essential part of achieving our city government’s own stated goals.