Thursday, April 25, 2013

N is for Noxious: images of America

N could have been for nightmare, describing the nerve-wracking experience of driving on the wrong side of the road. A "character building" experience from which I'm still recovering!

Or N could be for "No".  The kind of long, drawn out "No" one utters when stuck for words after having seen something surprising or unexpected. A bit like "Nooooooo, that can't possibly be real."

"No!" in the sense I've described above, could refer to the close relationship some US citizens have with Aliens, the extraordinary landscape of Death Valley, the giant Sequoia trees, the weird Joshua trees or the strange fibrous golden floss on the tree below:
"NO, that can't possibly be real" is also how one friend reacted when I told her of the warnings I'd read about becoming ill as a result of visiting the Sequoia National Park.

But unfortunately it's true, so N is for noxious. An unpleasantly accurate word for poisoning the air so badly beneath the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks that tourists are warned that during the Summer months they may feel light headed and ill and are advised when it's unsafe to hike. Job applicants are warned that the workplace can be unhealthy. Your lungs can be blistered by the pollutants surging up from the valley below.

Visiting the Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Parks can make you ill. That deserves an extremely loud NO - this should not be allowed to continue. Surely it's time to invest heavily in addressing the pollution problem at the source, increasing funding to the responsible agencies and supporting the National Parks Service rather than continually cutting back!

National Parks are traditionally places where people come to become rejuvenated, they paint, contemplate, exercise and delight in the wonders of nature.

Wikipedia informs us (here) that:
On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill that mandated the agency [ie the National Park Service] "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." (my bold)
But in less than a hundred years from that mandate, trees which can live for over 2500 years are being damaged by airborne pollutants. The generations in between have allowed an appalling situation to arise ... continue ... and get worse.

The noxious air is a combination of fertilisers, PCB's (which affect wildlife reproduction, intelligence and behaviour as well as leading to cancers and mutations) pesticides from the sprays used on fruit trees in the highly productive valley as well as pollutants from factories and vehicles.

The beautiful, majestic forest of giant Sequoia trees are suffering from the noxious air. Seedlings are stressed and some trees have yellowing, dropping needles. Of course, it's not just the awe inspiring Sequoia trees, but other varieties as well.

Their worth is beyond a dollar value, our entire environment is priceless and unable to be replicated.
For now tourists can stand in awe at the base of these amazing trees, to muse and wonder as they gaze upwards with delight.

Where will they and we be in another hundred years?

A 2013 interactive map by the California Environmental Protection Agency showing assorted data including pollutants can be found via this link.

You can read more about the toxic fumes here, here and here. A quick Google search will lead to many more discussions about the air pollution.



Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - how ghastly .. I hadn't realised this .. trying to get people to appreciate what's happening to this world just doesn't seem to be working.

The jolt is made on visiting a place such as this ... then most people will go back to their habitats which we abuse all the time - and which seep into the earth in ways we don't have the ability to understand ... some do, many don't ..

Cheers Hilary

Sue Travers said...

Hilary I was completely lost for words. How did we allow this to happen? I know they've made changes, but ....