Burning ban needed for Cowichan Valley
I note with dismay that North Cowichan council is considering allowing a time extension to open burning in Cowichan Valley. Allow me to state what should be the obvious.
We have just 12 kilometres depth of liveable atmosphere on average, the troposphere, which is that very thin ‘atmospheric skin’ where all smoke, most water vapour (more than 95 per cent of it), all clouds, and all weather systems are confined. Even tornadic thunderstorms and hurricanes do not penetrate through the strong temperature inversion of the stratosphere above. And for 200 years we have been pumping every kind of pollutant, and every greenhouse gas imaginable into this very thin skin. That’s just 12 km of atmospheric depth for a 12,000-plus km diameter planet, a ratio of 1:1000, the same ratio as the thickness of an apple skin to the diameter of the apple. Cut an apple in half to convince yourself just how thin that skin is, and likewise the atmospheric skin. And, if you left an apple with a damaged skin for a week, the apple would rot through completely. That’s what we’re doing with our atmosphere, rotting out the surface beneath. The North Cowichan air pollution from burning is compounded within our much thinner and frequent boundary layer inversion of a mere few hundred metres above ground in Cowichan Valley, trapping pollutants close to the ground, especially during fall and winter.
No wonder humans have developed so many lung-related diseases today. And then there’s the climate — burning puts more carbon dioxide into the troposphere, contributing to global warming, while trees and other vegetation that we cut and burn, reduce the amount of carbon that plants can absorb from the atmosphere, a double-whammy of trouble, and both are positive feedbacks to global warming.
At this time of history, there is no excuse for not realizing what damage we are doing to our environment, our health, and our climate, and how ludicrous it is to approve extended burning. To do so is to give nature the two-finger salute, reduces the credibility of those who might approve it, while all residents are the ones who suffer in the end. This is not something that should even be negotiable. We need to think globally, act locally, and act now! No government body should ever approve such a dumb proposal.
Geoff Strong, atmospheric scientist