What's the big story that should have been on Page 1 today? I'm not a headline writer so forgive my not-too-glitzy rendering of this report. It is simply:
* 1. Ventura will begin having smog alerts in a few weeks.
* 2. Smog speeds the aging process.
* 3. Ventura spawned the first Green Party congressional candidate in the country.
This is all one story. The threat's arrived. It is a threat to us because it may mean we'll get older faster. And someone's arisen to fight the threat. So maybe the headline is: "Smog and Green Party Arrive--Which Stays?"
Next week, the state Air Resources Board will begin public hearings in Los Angeles on a proposed regulation to outlaw smog-producing vehicles. More about that in another column.
But one thing we know right now: Based on new medical studies, we're going to have about 20 smog alerts (they call them "Health Advisories") in Ventura County next year. We had zero last year. L.A. will have over 100--double last year's. What happened?
Board spokesman Jerry Martin (another one of those knowledgeable people I'm happy to be finding in government) says researchers at the medical schools at UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara have found that previous smog figures don't reflect the damage done by low levels of exposure. The damage begins at the level at which our air is--and has been for years--measureably dangerous. Nineteen days a year now. Not just for asthmatics and the already ill. It's speeding up the aging process of everyone. It starts in the lungs like "passive smoking."
Next week things will heat up in the press when public hearings begin featuring oil and auto company testimony against the proposed state standards. They won't go so far as to say smog is good for us, as they once did, but they'll try to say it's "no problem" at the current levels.
Since I don't want to age any faster than I am already (it's no fun having to slog through life as a "Depression baby"), I'm going to look into what the Greens have to say. They're smog-haters, you see. Their candidates are the only ones we know who are not going to go along with compromises when it comes to pollution.
So I was surprised when their sole candidate for national office in the United States, Mindy Lorenz, a Cal State Northridge professor, put up some posters to announce a speech in Thousand Oaks this month and someone tore them down. Greens, in addition to being smog-haters, are slow-growthers, pro-small business, anti-foreign oil, fitness-oriented, pro-local control of schools. They're a lot of other things too, like thrifty. Sounds pretty middle of the road to me. In fact, the Greens I know seem to fit the Thousand Oaks profile quite well. So who's sore at them in Thousand Oaks?
Perhaps there is a hint in a recent column by Kevin Phillips, the conservative syndicated Washington writer. He says the environmental crisis is hurting the right wing of the GOP and helping the big moderate middle of that party because it is a lightning rod for the old values (see previous graph).
He notes that environmental values are surging ahead of crime and drug worries in Sun Belt polls. Why, even "dipsy doodle Valley girls and retired Marine officers alike tell bemused poll-takers they'll give up aerosol sprays and drive-in movies to stop global warming," he says.
If this is true, then the Greens are asymptom of foot-dragging in the two major parties and I predict you are going to see a change.
We will know in six weeks whether the news about aging and the new facts about smog in Ventura County are going to help Mindy Lorenz's Green Party write-in candidacy. But I do know that if a candidate of the Republican or Democratic parties promises to clean up the environment, I'm going to be paying closer attention, along with the Valley girls and retired officers. And, at the risk of sounding like an endorser, I'll be watching which oil and auto companies contribute to Lorenz's opponents. If there aren't any, that would be really big news.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Air Resources Board has information on Ventura smog and on the low-emission vehicle hearings--Sept. 27 in Los Angeles (916) 322-2990.
For information on how the candidates stand on environmental issues:
* Republican Party Campaign Headquarters (805) 485-9793.
* Democratic Party Campaign Headquarters (805) 385-3067.
* Ventura County Green Party (805) 984-2225.