3.06.2013

WELCOME, SULPHUR DIOXIDE, HELLO, CARBON MONOXIDE? THE AIR, THE AIR IS EVERYWHERE....


Because I am capable of losing myself for hours at the computer, staring into the screen, I have had to train myself to look up and focus on a far-away point out the window. My rental has extraordinary city views, because of a quirk in the layout of the avenues--I see a skyline that stretches across Manhattan and takes in everything from the Citicorp building to the Morningside escarpment, with St. John the Divine dominating the southern end.


My window is filled with sky. Sometimes, gulls wheel across my view, an occasional hawk rides a thermal, and pigeons streak from one rooftop to another. Every once in a while a V formation of Canada geese pumps past. But more often, because it is winter, I am watching the smoky entrails of dirty fuel oil spewing from chimneys. Plastic bags ride thermals, soaring gracefully through the sky until they snag on tree branches or antennae. The bags brush across my window, and by the time I have found my camera, the puffy creatures have traveled miles.


Because I am thinking and writing so much about air pollution--the very basic dumping into the air of greenhouse gases, toxic chemicals, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and soot--I have developed a tendency to focus on that when I look out the window. I've never lived high up off the ground before, so I've never had such a front row seat to the way we pollute our air. Now, when I walk the streets, I look up to see what else is going on up there, besides the amazing array of building tops that long-ago architects created as a gift to New Yorkers who raise their heads to gaze skyward. I don't like what I see. And I don't understand how anyone would even want to get away with this.

Thankfully, because of the Clean Air Act--and in spite of the polluters who sue to cripple it--ours is not as filthy as the air in urban China. Thankfully, in New York City, EDF and Mayor Bloomberg are working hard to get buildings to convert to cleaner fuels--though we don't see solar arrays on rooftops yet.

We share the air--with everything we throw up into our skies. Hopefully, we will someday conduct our lives so that we don't have to look past the soot to admire wheeling gulls, flowering branches, and all the other blessings of this beautiful creation. 

10 comments:

Judith said...

Yes. And thank you for all that you do to help keep us all moving ourselves and pushing others in that direction.

Allison Cobb said...

This immediately brought to mind my friend Kaia Sand's poem "tiny arctic ice" about our physical connections within a global economy -- "Airplane air is hard to share. I breathe in what you breathe out, stranger." This is a video of her reading the poem at the recent Berkeley conference on ecopoetics. The poem is written on discarded e-waste -- computer cords and the like. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLkeLCX_8qs

LindaB said...

Oh, I do remember this b'way tune. You're on to something here, D. Wonderful pictures and thoughtful commentary. We have dirtied our horizons.
On another tact... I always wondered if I might end up in Paris as "the little old lady" in Barbar...but maybe the next iteration is ...Harlem.
Gardening...off to Pine Knot Hellebore open house this weekend in Clarksville,VA. Soooo excited...

Sandra Jonas said...

My goodness, how many years ago was that and we are still singing the same tune. Thank you for lending your voice to the atmosphere.

Mia said...

With what we know today, that dirty smoky trail of soot is just plain obscene. Looking at it makes feel like I'm witnessing an american embarrassment, one of the worst. Living in the country, I don't see this, that does not mean that the smog (fog) i see hanging over the sea is not just as offensive. Thanks for the pictures and the wake up call and all the work you have done to help remedy the effects of this.

annie said...

that filthy chimney smoke is a sign of a boiler starting up and is only allowed to last only for a certain few minutes. if it goes longer it's a violation. report to 311. having watched this sight many times, i can say they do not last but a few minutes.

Mia said...

That makes sense annie, I know that we have made many strides in keeping the environment clean so I was surprised to see the picture. Thanks for the comment.

mindy said...

The suffering world, http://www.asianclassic.net/

Kate Upton said...

Shop for carbonmonoxide detectors and more home safety products at Walmart.com. Save money. Live better.

dwdeclare said...

you would have thought we'd have learned our lesson by now that air pollution is bad for our health and we must do everything we can to ensure a healthy environment for everyone. but nooooooooo....all we care about is money, consuming and creating more garbage! very depressing.

"breathe deep while you sleep, breathe deep (cough) deep (cough, cough) deep dee deep (cough, cough, cough, cough)."