In a post from a few days ago, I picked on some LAT San Pedro coverage.
In turn, I was picked on for defending San Pedro's air quality.
In response, Noel Park commented that a New York Times article indicates that San Pedro's air is, in fact, crap. Sort of.
The article says, in short, that LA's air used to be almost completely unbreathable - in the 50s - and thanks to cutting-edge legislation and regulation, became vastly better. In San Pedro, however, the daily requirements of operating the country's largest port complex leave the district vulnerable to dangerous levels of air pollution.
This is true. However, it also oversimplifies the situation - at least as it is interpreted by some.
A disclaimer: I'm not saying any air pollution is ever really acceptable.
What I am saying is that the type of pollution addressed in this article - particulates from diesel emissions from trucks and ships - is a very geographically limited form of pollution. This means that the people living within certain distances from major trucking routes or terminals face increased risk of health problems as a result of particulate pollution.
Really, I had an op-ed published on this - if I weren't all YD-ed in the head from the convention, I'd dig it - and its supporting research - up for you. But you'll have to wait.
I point this out because I think when dealing with this kind of policy problem, accurately describing and talking about the situation helps develop the most effective response. In this case, if we talk about port-related air pollution in the same terms as vehicle emission pollution we may actually be disserving the communities most at risk from particulate pollution.
Trucks queuing up on Channel don't directly - or even likely measurably - effect my parents on the other side of town. Particles - the soot that causes health problem - are heavy. They don't float far. That stuff is different from ozone - which the article makes clear, but the resulting rhetoric won't.
But who lives by truck routes and busy ports? Not our most enfranchised or economically advantaged neighbors. And when more organized NIMBYs push truck traffic out of their neighborhoods, where does it go? So besides pollution, the problem becomes discrimination.
This is a social justice issue with environmental aspects and an environmental issue with social justice aspects. If port pollution become a pan-San Pedro problem instead of a area-specific problem - that should absolutely be of concern to the whole town because something done to one of us is an affront to all of us - our ability to combat the problem diminishes.
So - though it may be nuanced - I'm not incorrect when I defend most of San Pedro's air.
But that should make us even more concerned about the problem, because it makes sick those already less able to fight back - economically, politically, or medically.