Here is an interesting little tool I found showing how each state ranks on certain environmental issues. Surprisingly, Indiana did a lot better than at least I expected overall. But there were two main areas where we rank toward the bottom: air quality (48th) and carbon dioxide emissions (45th). Our neighboring states don’t rank much better.
This is just one organization’s measurement, but a quick search around the web will reveal many environmental organizations rank Indiana’s air quality pretty low. It’s not surprising at all when you consider that we have several of the major contributors to air pollution.
There’s heavy industry. Between the refinery and steel mills and being included in the metro area of Chicago, we in the Region know all about that.
There’s cars. Lots and lots of cars. Being the Crossroads of America means millions and millions of drivers passing through spewing exhaust throughout our state, especially plenty of semis burning diesel on our highways. Also, I’ve said how we don’t have much public transit, which means residents are forced to drive more.
And like most of the Midwest, the coal industry is the main supplier of power in our state. Sure, there’s some alternative energy at play in our state, such as the Meadow Lake Wind Farm you pass through on I-65, but coal is still king and won’t be deposed anytime soon.
Short of some superpowered air filtering system out of a sci-fi novel, I don’t see how we can improve our air quality without drastically changing our lifestyles. For example, if we want to reduce automotive exhaust, we’d all have to drive less, chip in tax dollars to fund mass transit, or switch over to hybrid cars, and then eventually to completely electric ones. To stop polluting the air for electricity, we’d have to seriously consider clean sources like solar and wind as our main power sources, not just a sideshow to coal power plants. And in addition to facing resistance from the industries involved and to raising the public funds needed, we’d also have to deal with the reality that said industries employ a lot of people.
I’ve been to Seattle, a very green city in one of the more environmentally conscious states, and even in the middle of downtown, the air made regular open air in Northwest Indiana suburbs seem like a smoky bar. The seasonal allergies I usually suffer seemed to disappear the four days I was there. So believe me, cleaner air is worth the time and effort it’ll take, not only because of climate change, but for the simply selfish reason that it’ll make our daily routine of breathing better.