'Other Guy' Expected to Pay

The Orange County Annual Survey for 1989 that was released this week leaves one wondering: What is it about a back-yard barbecue that makes it a coveted symbol of the good life?

Not surprisingly, the eighth annual survey indicated that county residents are ever more weary of traffic and smog. Nearly half view air pollution as a big problem in the county, and an overwhelming 72% see dirty air as a big problem in Southern California. More than half of Orange County's residents say they would support "clean air at any cost."

But when it came to specific proposals to reduce smog in the Air Quality Management District's long-range plan, Orange County residents objected most to measures that would affect personal life style. For example, fewer than a quarter favored restricting the use of barbecue starter fluids. About the same small minority would ban gas-powered lawn mowers, impose parking fees or limit new drive-through lanes for banks and fast-food establishments. But all these life-style enhancements have been positively fingered by dirty-air experts as part of the problem we breathe.

Most residents were more than willing to endorse proposals that would affect consumer choices without directly limiting life styles, such as banning aerosol sprays or requiring solar heaters in new homes. Strongest support was for proposals that would affect business, such as encouraging ride-sharing or requiring cleaner fuel for new cars.

What this indicates, as pollsters Mark Baldassare and Cheryl Katz told civic leaders this week, is that people do not recognize that they are part of the problem--and part of the solution. Without ignoring the need for business and industry to do its part, it is time for everyone to realize that personal habits and attitudes must change if there is to be a chance to clean up the air, or even keep it from getting dirtier.

Finding a less polluting way to start the barbecue is at least a beginning.

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