The True Cost of Dirty Air

Dirty air stinks…literally.  It’s expensive, too.  I’ve been doing a little digging this weekend because of a Yahoo News story that crossed my desk on Friday.   It pinned the global cost of dirty air at $225 billion per year.  You can build a lot of bicycle infrastructure for that kind of money.

So I dug, mostly because I’m tired of hearing that bicycling is too expensive and that we can’t afford to build dedicated infrastructure because the money’s just not available.  I’m tired of people who are either fully vested in the way things are now or who are simply terrified of change defending the status quo.  The status quo is harming us physically and fiscally.    It is broken.  It no longer works.  I’m going to keep repeating that because (a) it’s the truth and (b) maybe if we keep saying it we can change what’s in people’s hearts and minds.


Motorists have become comfortably numb to their role in Utah's notorioous winter inversions that trap polluted air along Utah's Wasatch Front, obscuring beautiful mountain views.

Motorists have become comfortably numb to their role in creating Utah’s notorious winter inversions that trap polluted air along the Wasatch Front, obscuring beautiful mountain views.

Here at home, we blow $131 billion per year that we don’t have because of dirty air.  Most of that amount is spent on healthcare.    Consider this.  Dirty air causes more of us to be born prematurely.  That’s expensive and in some cases condemns a person to a lower quality of life.  Air pollution is a contributing factor to premature death as well.  In between life’s two ends, far too many people suffer needlessly because far too many of the rest of us simply do not care enough to modify our behavior one little bit.

Dirty air is mostly avoidable.  There are technological solutions that can help with this problem, but by far the easiest way to clean the air is to simply make a conscious decision to burn less fossil fuel.  The easiest way to burn less fossil fuel is to ride a bike for short trips of five miles or less.


You can run, but you cannot hide.  Motorists are the biggest contributors to dirty air.  It’s not even close.   Source: KUED/Univ. of Utah

You see, at the end of the day this isn’t about not having the funding or any of the other strawmen that the defenders of the status quo routinely trot out.   This is about life….both quantity and quality of life.  It’s about our priorities as a society.  Do we protect the most vulnerable among us or do we let them needlessly suffer because we’re too selfish to change?  Either we believe the words that comes out of our mouths or we don’t.  We all have to make a choice.  “I didn’t know” is no excuse.   It never was. People who believe in something act consistently with that belief.

So find your bike.  Saddle up.  Ride.  That is the solution.  Don’t let anyone talk you out of it or tell you otherwise.


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