State of the Air, Air Quality & Coronavirus, Commuting with Confidence webinar, Floral Fauna, Native Plants, Railroad Commission Candidates’ Forum, Green Roofs, Green Jobs, and more
On Monday, the Houston Chronicle included an article by Hirokoko Tabuchi of the New York Times: Next to smokestacks, virus is one more risk. Preliminary research, the article reports, indicates that “coronavirus patients in areas with historically heavy air pollution are more likely to die than patients elsewhere.” Low-income communities of color are disproportionately exposed to air pollution, the article explains, calling out a neighborhood in Houston “that is home not only to factories making plastics materials used in medical masks, but also incinerators that burn medical waste… ‘Hospitals need the masks, the gloves,’ said Yvette Arellano, [a research and policy liaison with t.e.j.a.s.] But the irony, she said, is that communities like this ‘are breathing in the toxins that industry says is necessary for the safety of other people.'”
If you think much about environmental justice, this is no surprise.
Allyn West, writing for One Breath Partnership, describes the local implications in more detail. “The communities in Houston that have been most devastated by COVID-19 so far have been characterized by David Persse, the city’s top health authority, as those living with “decades of disparities” in everything from food security to access to medical care and transportation to environmental exposure.” One Breath Partnership is a joint initiative of Air Alliance Houston, Environment Texas, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Integrity Project, Public Citizen, and Rice University, some of the region’s best champions for better air quality.
While air quality varies within the region, the American Lung Association provides an annual assessment of air quality in the Houston region as part of its national State of the Air report which was released with minimal fanfare on April 21–the day before the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Harris, Montgomery, and Galveston and other Counties in the region received grades of “F” for ozone levels. As you can see from the chart above, ozone levels have decreased over the past 20 years, but still do not meet federal standard. In fact, an #ozoneactionday was issued on Tuesday for the Houston region, and it was not the first of 2020.
Annual and 24-hour particle pollution are much better in comparison, but still not great. Ground-level ozone and particle matter are two of the “big six” common criteria pollutants identified in the Clean Air Act of 1970; the others are carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and lead. These four pollutants are not considered in the report and, in general, the Houston region meets the standards for these pollutants. However, as explained by Air Alliance Houston, while everyone is affected, most of the disease burden is borne by marginalized populations who tend to live near busy roads and industrial sites with higher air pollution levels.
The Clean Air Act also regulates 187 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). A hazardous air toxin is any air pollutant known to play a role in causing chronic disease, such as cancer, cardiovascular, and other serious health impacts.According to Air Alliance Houston, of the 187 regulated HAPs, 161 are present in varying concentrations at different locations in the Houston area, and, in 2017, nearly 17 million pounds of toxic air pollution were emitted by industrial sources in the Houston metropolitan area.
Interested in learning more about air quality in the Houston region? You are in luck! The following are some of our favorite resources right now, including some of the sources described above.
- Air Alliance Houston
- One Breath Partnership (Te sure to check out their Twitter feed. Even if you aren’t a twitter fan, its a great feed.)
- HARC: During the current pandemic, air quality appears to have improved in the region, according to a study by HARC: “Effects of Pandemic on Air Quality.”
- On May 28, the Board of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will hold a webinar tilted “Air Quality, Climate Variability, and COVID-19.” For more information and to register, visit eventbrite.com.
- Air Champions – Citizen Scientists Network of volunteers, organized by McMac Cx, a mission-focused, social enterprise which contributes 20% of its annual resources toward making the community a place where nature flourishes, humans thrive and businesses prosper. Learn how you can participate by getting a personal air quality monitor or sponsoring the participation of schools and students. Note: McMac Cx supports the CEC through financial contributions (Thank you!) but this is awesome enough that we would share it anyway.
- City of Houston’s Bureau of Pollution Control and Prevention‘s air quality program
- Harris County’s Pollution Control Services’ (PCS) Outdoor Air Program
- Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Regional Air Quality Planning Advisory Committee (RAQPAC). The Committee’s next monthly meeting is next Thursday, Amy 28, 2020, at 2:00 pm. The Committee reviews air quality plans for the H-GAC region and recommends actions necessary to improve the region’s air quality. Also note the meeting of the Transportation Policy Council tomorrow, May 22, 2021, at 9:30.
Please scroll down to read notes from our member organizations and the community.
Superpowers Sessions for environmental educators
Join fellow environmental educators in Houston on Fridays for short, “superpowers” sessions, organized by the CEC. Network, learn and share resources, and walk away with new knowledge and new friends. Open to any educator. Ten-minute presentations on local topics, are followed by 15 minutes of Q&A and community-building time. The sessions are offered at two times on the same day (10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) to ensure smaller groups and more opportunity to connect with fellow environmental educators in Houston. May 22: “Microplastics in the Gulf,” hosted by Janice Walden of Friends of Greene; May 29: Tech Tools 2.0 used by Teachers,” hosted by Lisa Gianukos and Amanda Brown of Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation; June 5: “Beekeeping in the City,” hosted by Kevin Kohli of Alveole. Details and registration on this Google Form.
Join the movement to accelerate sustainability and environmental education programs for K-12 students! EcoRise’s Gen:Thrive is a collaborative initiative that has launched a statewide survey to identify and map every K-12 environmental education program in Texas.Through this robust community mapping process, Gen:Thrive aims to provide the information and insights needed to foster the next generation of resilient, sustainability leaders. Please participate in the survey by May 22: ecorise.org/genthrive-survey. Your organization’s information, alongside social, health and environmental data sets, will help us illuminate areas of greatest need, uncover opportunities for strategic collaborations and provide districts and partners a data-driven, systems-approach to deploy programs across the state.
CEC Volunteer Info Session June 30 will be held online
CEC seeks individuals who might be interested in volunteering to help with our website and newsletter, plan events, design graphics, serve on one of our committees (programs, communications, finance, fundraising and development, membership, and governance) this year, or possibly joining our board of directors in January 2021. The next info sessions will be held June 30. For more information, please email [email protected], or join us online at Google Hangouts.
COALITION & COMMUNITY NOTES
We have endeavored to confirm the opportunities listed below. Please consider confirming directly with the hosts, particularly in light of concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).Continue reading