If you’re here reading this because you googled something like “Indiana air pollution,” then chances are good you already consider yourself an environmentally conscious person. And for those of us attuned to the happenings of the natural world, we all have days we feel like hiding under a big rock. With continents melting, species disappearing, and natural disasters swirling more frequently and violently into the news cycle, it’s not hard to see why.
In that context, it’s easy to peek out from under our rocks and think - compared to all the other things and places - Central Indiana’s air quality isn’t that bad.
It’s true that through statewide efforts to decrease ground level ozone and PM2.5, we have been slowly improving air quality in Indiana for the past 15 years. In 2000, not a single Indiana county met the quality the standard for ozone, and only 33.5% of Indiana citizens breathed air that met the safety standard for PM2.5. Today, we’ve raised the percentage of people living in areas that meet ozone standards to 65% and to 57% for PM2.5.
But here’s the kicker: even though things are better than they were, they are nowhere close to where we can - and should - be. Many Indiana families and communities still live in areas that do not always meet air quality standards. And when it comes to the air we breathe - all 3,400 gallons per person, per day - “always” is exactly the standard we need to strive for.
Earlier this week, the American Lung Association released its annual State of the Air report. We’re in it. Of the three standards measured - ozone, 24-hour PM2.5 and annual PM2.5 - Marion County met one . And we didn’t just barely fall short on the others, we big-red-F-see-me-after-class failed them.
Other Central Indiana counties didn’t fare much better:
*Note: Not all counties record data for each category - or record data at all. We omitted these from our list.
Even with Hancock setting the curve with a B, we’re looking like we could use that after-class help.
That’s why we have to keep working to make air quality better. And it’s also why this can’t only be a crusade of the “environmentally conscious.” Poor air quality hurts families - all families, regardless of their stance on gluten-free granola. It hurts businesses. It hurts communities.
Our goal is not to scare or enrage anyone. After all, it’s hard to make progress when you’re hiding under rocks - or throwing them. Our goal is to let you know that this is a problem. It’s a problem that’s right here at home, not halfway around the world. And that the only real way to address it means coming together.
What we do want is for you to know that Indy is already a great place to live and raise a family, but like many things “that aren’t that bad,” our air quality deserves a second look. We want you to care about staying here, about protecting the work that has already started, and about being part of the work that still needs to happen. More than anything, we want you to be moved to action through love for our home and our region, not through the doom-and-gloom of scary sounding statistics.
As Central Indiana continues to grow and thrive as a region, that growth will bring with it new challenges that we must be prepared to meet head on. If we sit back and rest, we aren’t going to be ready. Remember, this is our air, but it’s also our children’s and our children’s children’s, and the choices we make today affect more futures than just our own.
We are dedicated to improving Central Indiana’s air quality, and to making our region one of the most livable and sustainable in the Midwest. If that’s something you can get behind, then join us. Getting involved is easy. Check back here for updates on news and events, and here are some ways you can start improving air quality today.