By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 8, 2023 ~
Yesterday, news headlines blared that New York City had the worst air quality in the world, as an eerie brownish-orange haze enveloped the city and Long Island. Photographs that looked more like scenes from a sci-fi movie popped up all over Twitter. Daytime took on a nighttime quality as streetlights automatically flipped on.
Outdoor activities of all kinds were cancelled: the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies cancelled their home games that had been scheduled for Wednesday; schools banned outdoor activities on playgrounds; millions of Americans living in the Northeast United States were cautioned to remain indoors.
The Governor of New York State, Kathy Hochul, announced she was distributing one million N95 masks – a flashback to the hellish life of New Yorkers in 2020 and 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the city and the overflowing bodies of COVID victims had to be stored in refrigerator trucks.
The deep, dangerous haze on Wednesday, which is still present this morning, is coming from wildfires in Canada. According to Governor Hochul, a normal Air Quality Index (AQI) is 50, but yesterday Brooklyn recorded an AQI of 413 while Queens recorded an AQI of 407 – more than twice the readings of some of the most polluted cities in the world.
New Yorkers were not the only people to be impacted. By noon, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania recorded an AQI of 410. Health officials up and down the East Coast warned residents that there were fine particulates in the air that could cause serious respiratory problems for those venturing outdoors.
New York State officials issued a notice, warning that fine particulates “can cause short-term health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath.” The statement also cautioned that “Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can also worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease….”
The Associated Press published detailed advice on “How to stay healthy as smoke spreads from Canada wildfires.” The syndicated advice was carried by the Long Island newspaper, Newsday. It included this:
“When inside, keep doors, windows and fireplaces shut so that smoke stays out. If you have a portable air purifier or HVAC system, run it to help keep the air clean, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends. Check that your filters are high quality and up to date. Make sure any filters or air conditioners are set to recirculate indoor air to avoid bringing in smoke from outside. If you have a window air conditioner, check that it’s sealed to the window as tightly as possible. And try to avoid activities that would add more particles to the air in your home — like smoking, burning candles or frying meat.”
Another danger not mentioned by the media yesterday is that Americans are increasingly becoming desensitized to surreal weather events at the same time that fossil fuel money is pouring into Congressional races and putting more and more climate-change deniers on key Committees in Congress to bully regulators in hearings and obstruct the passage of legislation. (See our report: A Fossil Fuels Giant Has Been Raising the Election Chances of Extreme-Right Candidates — Using a Dangerous High-Tech Weapon.)
Many of these Congressional proponents of a hands-off approach by government to the fossil fuel industry, share the same hands-off view for crypto currencies – raising our suspicions that the two may be linked. To get your head around that idea, just remember that crypto begins with so-called “mining” that drives up demand for fossil fuels. This is how Senator Elizabeth Warren described this crypto “mining” at a Senate hearing in June of 2021:
“Finally, there are the environmental costs of crypto. Many cryptocurrencies are created through ‘proof-of-work’ mining. It involves using computers to solve useless mathematical puzzles in exchange for newly minted cryptocurrency tokens. Such mining has devastating consequences for the climate. Some crypto mining is set up near coal plants, spewing out filth in return for a chance to harvest a few crypto coins. Total energy consumption is staggering, driving up demand for energy. If, for example, Bitcoin — just one of the cryptocurrencies — were a country, it would already be the 33rd largest energy user in the world — using more energy yearly than all of the Netherlands.
“And all those promised benefits – the currency that would be available at no cost to millions of unbanked families and that would provide a haven from the tricks and traps of big banks – well, those benefits haven’t materialized.”
What has materialized, however, are massive crypto frauds which also have a surreal, dystopian quality. (See also: Former New York Fed Pres Bill Dudley Calls This the First Banking Crisis Since 2008; Charts Show It’s the Third.)
Those members of Congress who have pushed this laissez faire attitude are getting a personal lesson in climate change this morning. The Washington Post reports the following conditions in Washington, D.C. and surrounding area:
“Residents in the Washington and Baltimore regions are awakening to their worst air quality in years. EPA air quality monitors are reporting widespread Code Red and Code Purple conditions, signifying unhealthy conditions for most people and especially those with respiratory concerns. Toward Baltimore, some monitors are reading Code Maroon, signifying hazardous ‘emergency’ conditions, unhealthy for everyone.”