The Foulest Air on Earth

Today, I feel queasy, my throat hurts, and my lungs are congested. I am experiencing these symptoms because Eugene's air smells nauseating, looks orange, and is currently rated as among the unhealthiest on earth due to the Cedar Creek Fire, which is fifty miles to the east and has been burning for six weeks. It has thus far destroyed 122,000 acres, killed a 27-year-old Michigan firefighter, and is expected to burn until the arrival of winter rains. The air quality for Oakridge, the town closest town to the fire, is 566, which is off the chart (see below). When Oakridge was placed under a mandatory evacuation order last month, most of its 3,200 residents came to Eugene, and their pets and livestock were housed at the Lane County Fairgrounds.

Two years ago, the nearby McKenzie River Valley was hit by the Holiday Farm Fire (named after a Christmas tree farm). That fire burned 173,000 acres, damaged four rural communities, and destroyed the 600-resident town of Blue River (see video). Many Blue River residents camped in Eugene parking lots, and talks about rebuilding the town are still in progress.

The Eugene area had no large area fires last year, but we got weeks of off-and-on smoke from fires in southern Oregon and northern California. Major fires are new to the area, but are expected to become larger and more frequent. Summers here have always been dry, but they're getting drier. When Peggy and I moved here in 1986, the average daily high for the hottest month of the year was 79 F (26 C). It is now 85 F (29.5 C) with another five degree increase expected by mid-century. Four of Eugene's five hottest summers have occurred since 2015. Last summer, the airport thermometer hit 111 F (44 C).

What is America doing about the problem? Not much. One-third of Americans (nearly all of them Christian Republicans) either deny that climate change is real, or think God is causing it, and we can only end it by begging God's forgiveness for the sins of abortion, liberalism, gay rights, secular schools, gun laws, vaccination mandates, interracial marriage, mail-in voting, Hispanic immigration, and the theft of the 2020 presidential election.

According to the deniers, only a complete fool would believe that the world is getting hotter when snow falls every winter. They say that if it were real, the Bible would have predicted it, and Donald Trump wouldn't have accused the Chinese of lying about it. Sean Hannity, America's most popular conservative media personality, went so far as to say that he wishes climate change were real because he hates cold weather. Perhaps no one has told him of the downsides.

Quality Index
(AQI) Values
Levels of Health Concern Colors
When the AQI is in this range: ..air quality conditions are: symbolized by this color:
0-50 Good Green
51-100 Moderate Yellow
101-150 Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Orange
151 to 200 Unhealthy Red
201 to 300 Very Unhealthy Purple
301 to 500 Hazardous Maroon