A Modest Proposal for Clearing Dallas' Filthy Air

Categories: Schutze

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I try. I keep offering. Dallas doesn't have any problems it couldn't solve if it just looked to more advanced cities. I make suggestions. Dallas gets pissed off. I don't know what else I can do.

Recently I pointed out that Dallas could resolve its seemingly intractable 15-year-old standoff on what to do with the Trinity River by sending a team over to Galway, Ireland, to look at that city's Terryland Forest Park project.

Reaction? Zippo. They don't want to hear it. What, us copy Ireland? Oh, sure.

Three years ago I gave Dallas a really good tip on how to fix its perennially down-at-the-heels Farmers Market.

Easy. Send a team to Detroit, where the Eastern Market has become one of the most successful farmers markets in the nation, maybe the world, drawing hordes of people every weekend from surrounding states and Canada.

What? Dallas copy Detroit? Oh, sure. Why would we do that? Just because Detroit is at the top of the farmers market game and we're at the bottom?

Yes. That's why we would copy Detroit on this issue. But, no way. All I got for that was a lot of personal invective. It's just lucky for me I happen to like personal invective.

So, today, I try once more. I put myself out there for insult and abuse. Why? Because I love this place. I want to see us succeed through humility. And also, maybe, I'm hoping for a little more invective.

smoggy dallas.jpg
Dallas smog: We're world class in something at last.
What's our worst problem? Do you know? Air. According to Scorecard.org, an on-line environmental monitoring service that is quoted in scientific journals, Dallas County ranks consistently in the worst/dirtiest top 10 percent of American counties for air quality.

So how do fix that? Easy. Send a team to Mexico City. Great great story in The New York Times this morning about how Mexico City is at the global forefront of air pollution awareness and may soon eclipse major American cities in efforts to repair the air.

Beginning in the 1980s Mexico has mandated the reformulation of gasoline, shut down or moved toxic factories and banned people from using their cars one day a week. But the thing that probably illustrates their cutting-edge awareness better than any other is the creation of massive vertical gardens in Mexico City -- huge, densely planted walls, manmade green cliffs in effect -- to oxygenate the air.

Created by a company called VerdMx, the green walls are both art and high science. Their purpose is both to clean the air and cleanse the minds of harried urban dwellers. Just think how great it could be if we could accomplish either one of those, let alone both.

This paragraph in the Times story really leaps out:

"Both L.A. and Mexico City have improved but in Mexico City, the change has been a lot more," said Luisa Molina, a research scientist with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has done extensive pollution comparisons. Mexico "is very advanced not just in terms of Latin America, but around the world. When I go to China, they all want to hear the story of Mexico."

Do you see what I mean? The answers are out there. Dallas just needs to look to more advanced cities -- like Galway, like Detroit, like Mexico City -- to see what they're doing and then try the same stuff here.

The future is out there. It beckons us, if we can just manage a tiny little bit of humility about it. Maybe we should make that our motto.

Success Through Humility.

Wouldn't you love to see that one etched in stone above the doors to City Hall? Oh, I know I would. Dallas -- Modesty Capital of America! But I do need to issue a health advisory: Given current conditions, you are strongly advised not to hold your breath.

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57 comments
elsando
elsando

As my old buddy from Pittsburgh said, "I don't trust air that I can't see." 

Ricky Hollywood
Ricky Hollywood

Has anyone ever noticed that Dallas looks kind of like the yard of a guy who owned a junkyard then hit the lottery?  It's like someone just went out and bought a bunch of what they thought was nice crap and just strew it about.  "Omni hotel?  I gotta get one of those."  Aww, hell!  Look at that big ass string bridge!  I'm gonna put one in."  It's like the city planners just buy a bunch of crap that doesn't go together and just throw it about.

JRinDallas
JRinDallas

Green roofs and vertical gardens are a great idea but their feasibility is site/city specific.  I wish I could find it but pretty sure a feasibility study was done for Dallas on the topic and it found it wouldn't work.

Just guessing here but the reason it wouldn't work is Dallas lacks the development density of other cities that have taken advantage.  There's probably a geography/climate problem too but that's probably secondary.

Anyway, Dallas has a general impervious layer problem.  Too many paved surfaces.  Too much parking supply.  Too much of everything that correlates badly with air quality and stormwater/local flood control.  Vertical gardens are nice but it doesn't fit the Pareto principle.

Don Abbott
Don Abbott

The original seven families won't have any of this.  Since selling real estate is all this city has and will ever know, our air is no big deal.

richard schumacher
richard schumacher

Why don't the 1% in Preston Hollow and the Park Cities care?  They breathe the same air, and it can't actually be fun to have cardiopulmonary disease no matter how easily you can afford the medical bills. Do they pay churches in South Dallas to get sick for them?

Ken Duble
Ken Duble

In addition to the challenges of keeping the plants moist enough to survive, rodents were biting into the hoses. They should have put in desert plants instead.

Larry
Larry

Actual innovation in D??  But it is perfect here, just call any city office and listen to the recording welcome you to 'the city that works'  Isn't that all they have to do??

RTGolden
RTGolden

Dallas' new iconic bridge is a perfect metaphor for this city.  It goes nowhere a bridge didn't already go, this city is going nowhere it hasn't already been.  The bridge is a monument to useless grace and beauty without function, much like the artificially altered scions of Dallas' High Society.  The bridge is an unnecessary intrusion of steel and concrete into what could have been a beautiful stretch of green space, and this is the direction Dallas chooses to take.  Destroy the green within view of the rich and powerful, replace it with buildings and bridges that bear testament to the victory of wealth over reason.  The only place Dallas wants to limit expansion and encourage nature is in the southern swath, where that expansion might actually produce something useful, like jobs.I hack on you a lot JimS, sometimes because it's necessary, sometimes just out of boredom.  You've struck on something here, and in your other articles comparing the Dallas approach to things being done in other cities.  I suspect the vehemence directed at you when you write these stories is coming from a primal fear of the Dallas Elite.  You point out that, for Dallas to succeed, their relevance has to diminish, if not fade away entirely.  Like any animal backed into a corner and facing extinction, they have to lash out with everything they have: capped teeth, bottled tans, ceramic nails, or withered reason.  They're not fighting for what's right, they're fighting to survive.

Mike Aday
Mike Aday

The air in Dallas is only going to get worse once the City Council approves fracking in the city. How many people know that the drilling task force recommended allowing fracking in city parks? 

Steve T
Steve T

No green for the greening; spent it all on infrastructure for cars--roads, bridges, etc.

F2
F2

Any clean up must start with an honest evaluation of the source of the problem. No doubt that a fair amount of our pollution in summer blows up with the prevailing south winds from the Midlothian cement plant.  See, e.g.: 

he Midlothian cement plants, located 30 miles southwest of Dallas, are the largest air polluters in the area, producing an estimated 48 percent of the Dallas / Ft Worth region's industrial air pollution. The cement plants release into the air over 35, 185 tons of smog forming chemicals a year. It would take an estimated 600,000 cars to equal the chemicals producing smog released by the Midlothian cement plants. (6) 

If this is correct, then a goodly amount of air pollution could be controlled merely by stopping the political favors of letting this company poison the air the 6 million of us in the 9 county area breathe. If correct, the real cost of the pollution must be born by the polluter.  Make them pay for the care costs for kids who get asthma, etc.  If companies like this are forced to pay the real costs for their activities, they will change their behavior.  Otherwise, it is much cheaper for them to poison us all and make use deal with it.  

astoogebyanyothername
astoogebyanyothername

Detroit, Mexico City, and the Irish!?!?! The apocalypse is most assuredly drawing nigh.....

Ed D.
Ed D.

Cover the Museum Tower with kudzu; solve two problems simultaneously.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Mexico City also considered carving giant tunnels into the mountains with equally giant fans to suck the pollution away. 

Therefore, Mt. Dallas must become reality! A ferris wheel at the top, plant it up nice and green, make sure there's a nice big tunnel and fan in the middle, a horse park at the base, and hell, with some snowmakers we can bid on a Winter Olympics!

Somewhat Anonymous
Somewhat Anonymous

Well... The Woodall Rodg... er... Klyde Warren Park is a step in a similar direction. Personally, I love the smell of traffic exhaust fumes at 5 in the evening when it's 101 outside. It smells like...

Alexandertroup
Alexandertroup

My mothers family are from Detroit, then they moved  to Dallas, then to Oakland, and out of there..so it takes around 20 years.....and we are in our 6th year of such actvity, it is a shame they did not place a wall between Texas and Louisinana......

Joe L
Joe L

How can you say a city that is spending a bazillion dollars copying European bridges won't learn from other cities?

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Ask Linda Koop what her plans are for cleaning up Dallas air. This I must hear.

Montemalone
Montemalone

BAN LEAF BLOWERS!

They spew pollution and stir up dirt.

jfpo
jfpo

We just need to give Rick Perry's plan (suing the EPA into oblivion) time to work. Patience, people.

james
james

1 thing that would impact pretty noticably....drive thru cholesterol restaurants, banks etc. often have lines of a dozen cars or more sitting there idling away for 30 minutes a pop...

mynameisURL
mynameisURL

Wasn't it just a few years ago that Dallas decided to quit planting along the freeway due to watering concerns?

Anon
Anon

Is Jim's new/expanded UP function to read the NY Times, try to make its content relevant to Dallas, then pontificate about various issues that are sure to generate page clicks? Not knocking it as a strategy. Just wondering.

Mekhong Kurt
Mekhong Kurt

 elsando -- THAT sure brought a big chuckle from me!

cp
cp

 Feasibility study? Hahahahahaha!!!!!

Don't you know that Dallas does these whenever it a) wants to appease the public; b) wants to show the public that whatever they want is the right thing; and c) doesn't ever implement one one damn thing?

And, BTW... the climate here is perfect. And we're not as impervious as you think.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

 I do. And those two sorry excuses for civil servants, Joan Walne and Margaret Keliher are partially to blame for this disaster.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Perhaps the key is to tie up “Smoking Joe” Barton to a stake near the Midlothian plants and make him breath the foul air from his district for a time.   After all, according to his philosophy, there is no ill effect from any pollution.   Oh yes and let us make sure that if he does suffer from any ill effects that he has non-taxpayer funded health care for any of his illness due to bad toxic vapors (his rhetoric not included)!

JimS
JimS

Excellent.

Paul
Paul

 We have a mountain ... it is called McCommas Bluff ...

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

The writers of the Beverly Hillbilly's had that idea for L A in the Sixties

Mekhong Kurt
Mekhong Kurt

 SA -- are you related to the actor Robert Duvall? He said something similar in the Vietnam movie "Apocalypse Now": "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."

LOL!

JimS
JimS

Oh, man, good catch. Plus, we wear their shoes.

Observist
Observist

There's a new-fangled alternative to leaf blowers that spews no pollution, stirs up little dirt, and burns calories... it's a called a RAKE.   I swear my neighbor spends more time blowing around a tiny pile of leaves with that infernal blower than it takes me to rake and bag my entire yard.

Imagepimp
Imagepimp

I'll admit to using one that spews dirt, but at least it's electric and we use Green Mountain. A little dirt helps you grown character.

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

BAN BS BLOWERS!They spew pollution and stir up dirt.

Ken Duble
Ken Duble

It's called a gasoline tax. The more the cost goes up, the less willing people are to waste.

G_David
G_David

Unless it`s a suburban In `N Out, in which case you multiply by 5.

Ken Duble
Ken Duble

In addition to the challenges of keeping the plants moist enough to survive, rodents were biting into the hoses. They should have put in desert plants instead.

JimS
JimS

You caught me. OK. You're right. No more reading outside the city, no more thinking about stuff. Just you, Anon. And your click. 

Mekhong Kurt
Mekhong Kurt

 "The climate here is perfect"? Please, @973a1bca3e45b7135b70389444592dd2:disqus. I grew up on a family place in NE Denton County, and I rarely accused the area of having a "perfect climate." Well, okay, maybe 6-7 hours 4-5 days a year.

Since we had AC and heating, the climate was pretty good -- INSIDE. :-)

JRinDallas
JRinDallas

Didn't mean some idiotic consultative circle jerk...I meant a real, academic exercise.

Anyway, while vertical gardens may be cool it's not too far removed from the kind of thinking that brought us the Calavatra Bridge...namely neat stuff other cities have that really don't amount to much in the aggregate.  If we had Mexico City's density, we'd have about 11k people in the Central Business District, not 6k.  And that is assumed based on Mexico City's OVERALL density, not any kind of CBD equivalent.  Density means taller stuff which means more viable surface area to do something like this.

And climate?  Dallas averages 85+ highs 4 or 5 months of the year.  Mexico has zero months with average highs over 80.  Dallas average lows range from mid-30s to mid-70s.  Mexico, low 40s to mid-50s.

Geography?  Mexico is situated basically in a bowl in the mountains mostly protected from prevailing winds.  Mercifully, Dallas doesn't have that topography or we would have our 'days without cars' and industrial activity closures to go with our vertical gardens.

In Dallas (and beyond), we like our air quality solutions to be small-bore and the costs mostly hidden.  As soon as anything that's proposed that could, ya know, actually do anything about it (unpaving stuff, congestion pricing, banning drive-thrus)...we all become Tea Partiers.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Climate here is perfect? Maybe if you're a scorpion.

Matthew Gunter
Matthew Gunter

The same sorry Margaret Keliher that lost the Cowboys Stadium at Fair Park because she was worried too many Democrats would vote in an election. Shocker.

Now I Get It!
Now I Get It!

 Yes, because the cost of gas needs to go up more...

JimS
JimS

By the way: you have to be "Anon" for that? Do you have a friend ask for sex for you?

cp
cp

 No, Laura Miller lost the Cowboys, remember?

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