Keep the Change
Keep the Change
On a fall morning in 1980, Pitzer College freshman George Somogyi walked out of his dormitory, looked up, and froze in his tracks. In front of him was something incredible. An enormous mountain, over 10,000 feet tall, stretched up to the sky in the near distance. What made this sight so bizarre is that the mountain wasn’t there before. Somogyi had been at college for three months and had never laid his eyes on Mount Baldy, a five-million-year-old formation that stands just a few miles from this campus on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, because it was shrouded in smog so thick that it obscured the view for months at a time. Air pollution is a problem well known to the people of Los Angeles. In the 1970s their city became an icon of urban air pollution, as photos of brown haze choking downtown LA circulated worldwide. The air was so hazardous that people were hospitalized by the thousands. Yet today the air around Los Angeles, while far from perfect, is markedly improved. The amount of smog has been sliced in half since the 1970s, even as the population has doubled in size. More impressive still, the amount of particulate pollution—the small dust particles that lodge deep in the lungs and are especially harmful to human health—has been reduced to one-fifth the levels experienced in 1955. How did a change of this magnitude come about? This physical transformation was precipitated by a political transformation, as the people of Los Angeles joined together and fought for new rules to clean up the air. Beginning in the 1940s, citizens demanded that city officials look into the causes of the problem, which were not obvious at the outset. Their efforts led to the creation of the Los Angeles Bureau of Smoke Control in 1945. Soon the movement spread throughout California, where in 1947 state legislators passed the Air Pollution Control Act—a full quarter century before national policymakers adopted similar legislation.
Keywords: Green Building Council, World Values Survey, cultural norms, design standards, food production, green revolution, institutional resilience, international organizations, peer pressure, species conservation, stability and change, standard operating procedures, transportation
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