Cleaner Air Produced $5 Billion in Crops

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Farmers can’t control the air quality of their farms, yet the air makes quite the difference to the success of the crops. Since air can’t respect property rights it requires governments to act, and that’s what happened back in the 1990s in the USA when environmental regulations to improve air quality were put in place. A study of the impact of those regulations revealed that $5 billion USD in crops can be traced back to improved air quality.

Protecting the environment is good for the planet and for profits!

Focusing on a nine-state region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin) that produces roughly two-thirds of national maize and soybean output, Lobell and study co-author Jennifer Burney, an associate professor of environmental science at the University of California, San Diego, set out to measure the impact on crop yields of ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

“This has been a tricky problem to untangle because historically our measurements of different types of air pollutants and our measurements of agricultural yields haven’t really overlapped spatially at the necessary resolution,” explained Burney. “With the new high spatial resolution data, we could look at crop yields near both pollution monitors and known pollutant emissions sources. That revealed evidence of different magnitudes of negative impacts caused by different pollutants.”

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Cleaning Our Air Can Save Millions of Lives, Trillions of Dollars

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Thanks to the pandemic we’ve all gotten a taste of cleaner air, and we all want that to continue. Clean air isn’t just good for better views of the horizon and a more pleasant place it to live, it’s also good for global health and for government coffers. Yes, governments can save money if we pollute less (despite Chevron’s best efforts).

Importantly, many of the benefits can be accessed in the near term. Right now, air pollution leads to almost 250,000 premature deaths a year in the US. Within a decade, aggressive decarbonization could reduce that toll by 40 percent; over 20 years, it could save around 1.4 million American lives that would otherwise be lost to air quality.

Of the potential yearly deaths prevented, Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois remarked at the hearing, “That’s a huge number. That’s nearly three times the number of lives we lose in car accidents every year. It’s twice the number of deaths caused by opioids in the past few years. And it’s even more than the number of Americans we lose to diabetes each year.”

If the numbers are shocking, it’s because the science has been developing rapidly. First, says Shindell, “there’s been a huge upsurge in work in developing countries, in particular China,” which has produced larger data sets and a wider, fuller picture of the real-world effects of exposure.

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Good and Easy Plants to Take Care of

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Plants in your home and workplace can reduce stress and make the air you breath cleaner. If I had my way then every wall would be a bio wall. Since that’s not possible I’m happy to advocate for some plants that are easy to care for. Even if you don’t have a green thumb then these plants are for you.

  • ZZ plant
  • Asparagus fern
  • Rubber plant
  • Lucky bamboo
  • Snake plant

You’ve probably seen the super popular snake plant on Instagram or at your local coffee shops and restaurants. Their vertical, spear-like leaves make them stand out in a sea of green. Not to be confused with the spider plant, snake plants can come in a number of varietals: tall or short, with different leaf and color patterns. This was the second plant I bought to sit on my floor, and boy, do I love the heck out of it. They add a very exciting, bold visual element to any living space—alone or among other plants.

Probably one of my favorite features is that they don’t attract many pests or at all, and according to NASA, they keep the air inside the home clean. But like the ZZ plant, don’t eat it.

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These Plants Clean Your Household Air According to NASA

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A few years ago we looked at a TED talk on how to grow fresh air inside. The information was based largely on NASA’s research done in the 1980s called Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement, which looked into which plants are best for cleaning interior working spaces. They first looked at what is in the air in an average office then set out to find plants that remove chemicals that harm humans.

Here’s the list from NASA and the TED talk:

  • Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
  • Weeping Fig
  • Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum)
  • Kimberley Queen Fern
  • Moter-in-law’s Tongue (sansveria trifascata)
  • Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
  • Lillyturf
  • Barberton Daisy
  • Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
  • Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta)
  • Flamingo Lilly
  • Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
  • Spider Plant
  • Chinese Evergreen
  • Ficus Alii (Ficus macleilandii “Alii”)
  • Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”)

More information can be found here.

Smog Free Bike Cleans the Air While You Ride


Daan Roosegaarde designed another piece for his Smog Free Project and it’s a bicycle that cleans the air as you ride through the city. The handlebars contain a filtration system that removes pollutants which will provide clean air for the cyclist to breath in. As a cyclist myself this sounds amazing because breathing in exhaust from commuters is painful. The filtration technology is a version of what Roosegaarde used in his Smog Free Tower.

“The bike is a perfect model,” Roosegaarde told Dezeen. “It has a double function as it cleans the air and reduces congestion while being healthy and energy-friendly.”

The Dutch designer, who heads up his own firm Studio Roosegaarde, sees the bike being implemented through bike sharing programs in China such as Mobike.

“The bicycle is part of the Dutch DNA of course, and Beijing and other cities in China used to be bike cities,” he said. “We want to bring back its prestige and follow our ethos of making citizens apart of the solution instead of the problem.”

“It will always be connected with big programs of government and green technology and electric cars. They do top-down, we do bottom-up, and we meet in the middle.”

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