This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

The air quality in Los Angeles in the 20th Century

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1983, the air quality was the worst it had ever been since the founding of the city in 1781. That is not to say that it all happened suddenly. In fact, the Los Angeles basin has historically been a place that holds in dirty air. The wind blows from the ocean and is trapped in the mountains. This is traditionally called "smog", which is a combination of fog and smoke.

Fog itself is inevitable for a city that is so close to The Pacific Ocean. Ask anyone in San Francisco! And a little fog, or "marine layer" is kind'a nice. But fog is not brown, and smog is. And fog doesn't smell bad, but smog does. But the good news is that while fog is inevitable, smog isn't. And there would have been generation after generation of old-timers in Los Angeles who wouldn't have believed that. Some still don't. I've been back to LA several times since I left it in the '80s and I am a believer.

The reason that the movie industry moved from New York to Los Angeles in the early 1920s is to take advantage of the nice weather. The air was clear. And that's what mattered when movies had to be shot outside, using sunlight. On the occasional cloudy day, they waited out the weather. The sun would return, with blue skies, and they would go back to filming. But, unfortunately, the people who moved to Los Angeles then did all of the things that people do, they built houses, ate food, drove cars, etc. And little by little the amount of that activity added up to some very dirty air by the middle of the 20th century.

By the 1970s, the air quality in Los Angeles was terrible. Some people pointed fingers, some people just concluded that it was inevitable. And then at some point the people of Los Angeles recognized the enemy - and it was themselves.

At a car show, it's kind'a cool to see an old car start up, belching smoke, and the smell of gasoline, but it's hard to imagine a city filled with millions those things, with no pollution control at all, going day and night. Not to mention the millions of the businesses who could burn stuff, or dump just about any type of chemical you can imagine into the air. And so the process started, against the protests of people who said that "they couldn't afford it" to reign in the pollution that the people of Los Angeles were pouring into their air every day. California led the way with the insistence on catalytic converters on cars, making businesses clean up what they were putting into the air, etc. It was a terrible fight, and it still continues.

But the air is cleaner now in Los Angeles, believe me, I've seen it. Really.
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