64 Worst: Smog vs. the homeless

Oooh, this is a tough one because – in a sense – we brought both these curses on ourselves.

smog.jpgL.A. has the worst air in the United States because, by and large:

  • We got addicted to cars early and permanently
  • We then engineered one of the nation’s great public transit systems (the Red Car) out of existence
  • We’re too lazy/busy/cheap/classist to use existing public transit, bikes or other alternative transportation, and
  • Damn, we do like owning vintage V8s, gas-powered leaf-blowers and one of the largest, most diesel-spewing ports on the planet …

sitter.jpgOn the other hand: L.A. has the largest population of homeless citizens in the U.S. because, by and large:

  • We’ve done a lousy job of spending Prop. 63 funds on effective mental health programs
  • We let Skid Row develop over the years and only recently started getting serious about funding enough cops to stem the flow of street drugs that keep a lot of addicts addicted … and homeless
  • Our institutions have a nasty habit of dumping people right back on the Row instead of finding them help, and
  • What the hell, living on the street is okay in L.A. because it’s mostly warm and nice here, due in no small part to global warming, which we can lay partly at the feet of our … smog problem.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Decisions, decisions …

13 thoughts on “64 Worst: Smog vs. the homeless”

  1. What Annika said. Yeah, this is a tough one. I have to vote smog though as I never had asthma until I moved to L.A.

  2. Our smog is considerably better and continually improving. Technology is slowly turning it around. There are more days now that I can see the mountains above my house than when I moved here in ’94. Also my daughter hasn’t had an asthma attack in 10 years. Progress and we can’t turn our back on it.

    The homeless. Not much done in the 20 years I’ve been here. Phx and Las Vegas still buy bus tickets for theirs to here. What have we done? Add street lights so they can count their booze money a bit easier?
    street lights to make it easier to

  3. I voted homeless because, as frazgo said, the smog is improving; the way the economy is going, I think we’re just going to see more and more homeless.

  4. The smog sucks, but I’ve been in LA 15 years and have a dramatic decrease. Additionally, I think much of what is blamed on manmade pullutants is actually just part of the natural environment – we live in a dust bowl, so much of what we perceive as smog was probably here before man even arrived.

    Homelessness, on the other hand, gets my vote because its a travesty that needs to be a higher priority on everyone’s list. At the same time, part of the reason Los Angeles has so much homelessness isn’t because we’re more responsible than other cities or towns, its because we provide more services to help them, and our weather makes for a better place to be homeless than elsewhere.

  5. We’re too lazy/busy/cheap/classist to use existing public transit, bikes or other alternative transportation

    That would require Angelenos to loiter among lower class and middle lower class people — the common folk. Ain’t gonna happen, not as long as you can afford to buy a car and avoid that terror. In San Francisco, keeping a car (parking being the biggest expense)is cost-prohibitive so 80% of the city dwellers rely on MUNI, BART, and other public transportation. Poor folk, rich folk, black folk, yellow, white, Asian. They all ride public transpo together and, for the most part, they all get along.

  6. Yeah, today’s smog is just a faint haze compared to years gone by.

    When I arrived here in 1978, nearly one out of every three days was a First-Stage (or worse) Smog Alert. There were over a hundred First-Stage Alerts, and more than two dozen Second-Stage Alerts that year.

    These days, we haven’t had any Second-Stage Alerts at all since the early ’90s; some years have a couple of First-Stage Alerts, and some years, depending on the weather, have none at all.

    The air is still far from perfect, but you have to go inland to places like Riverside/San Bernardino or the Santa Clarita Valley to experience the sort of eye-burning nastiness that was once commonplace in LA.

    Those areas spent years blaming their own home-grown smog on LA, and refusing to do much of anything to improve their situation. Now that LA has cleaned up as much as it has, it’s becoming more apparent that LA isn’t the real problem, and the inland areas need to get off their butts and do something

    (Those areas are part of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and it’s good to remember that when people claim that “LA has the worst air quality in the nation, what they really mean is that “the SCAQMD has the worst air quality in the nation”, but most of that isn’t in LA proper. Fresno, Bakersfield, Houston, Santa Clarita, and Riverside all have far worse air quality than today’s LA.)

    There are still some serious problems, most especially the diesel emissions from the port, and all the diesel truck traffic it generates. But there are ambitious plans afoot to deal with those sources, as well – we’re not resting on our laurels just yet.

    On days that I visit the scenic overlooks along Mulholland, especially the one above Hollywood Bowl, I frequently encounter tourists marvelling at “how horrible the smog is”, when, most of the time, all they’re really seeing is the pale gray marine haze that’s always been been here, since long before Europeans arrived on the scene.

  7. Good perspective, and well-argued.

    However, I don’t think the Inland Empire can be blamed solely for its own smog – the area is a natural collector for heavy particulates blown east by prevailing ocean winds. In other words, when the wind’s wrong, they get all of L.A.’s smog plus their own.

    You can see the reverse happen during a good westbound Santa Ana blow, following a temperature inversion or other bad smog conditions – all the crap blows out into the bay and hangs there for a while.

  8. I’m going to vote for homeless people. I feel that saving the earth is up to humans. If too many humans are homeless are or are afraid of becoming homeless, then they are going to do things like drive, pollute, litter, and do all of the other things that kill the planet.

    As humans subconsciously we look at homeless people and go, “I live in a society where if you’re not economically successful people will let you just live in your own filth and think, it’s completely ok. I better do whatever I can to make sure I’m not that guy.”

    That’s a scary place to live.

    I saw a homeless guy passed out with his face in vomit next to half a million dollar lofts. And I’m sorry to say I stood there while my friend took pictures because they thought it was interesting and wanted to put it on their f**king blog. I got really upset with this person, but I didn’t call anyone all I did was turn away and not watch and call them an a**hole. That’s what I did and I think I care or at least I try to.

    I would like to say my attempt at trying to care was pretty pathetic.

    I was so disturbed by it later that evening I went back, but the guy was gone and so was the vomit.

    You can’t make people care if they think no one else cares about them. And is sort of really like that and that’s sad.

    If it’s all about me, me, me. That’s how the planet got destroyed in the first place.

    To me the environmental movement starts with how we treat ourselves, then how we treat other people, then our direct environment (neighborhood, people you share the city with,) then the larger environmental challenges outside of that.

    It doesn’t go in reverse, it can’t. It would be great if we could do it that way. It would be great if you could lose weight by simply wishing you were thinner and cutting out dairy, but you’ve got to do the heavy lifting and caring about people is the heavy lifting.

    It’s not glamorous like the river or the beach or blood diamonds, but it’s the heavy lifting of the environmental movement.

    If we care about each others then we can care about the earth.

    You can’t worry about making sure you get all the basic food groups, if you have to worry about going hungry.

    The bigger more grand things comes after doing the basics, the little but heavy lifting that’s a lot less fun.

    You can’t do trigonometry if you can’t add.

    And to me homelessness is the basics, if we can’t make sure that every person has a place to stay and food to eat then we’re pretty doomed as a planet.


  9. And I’m totally sorry to bring this up kind of thing up again, but I don’t want to seem like I care more about one group than I do another, because we’re all human and crap like that…but you know we call people without houses “the homeless” I think it makes it easier to deal with the problem.

    I really think that’s some kind of design to make it seem like we, the people with houses are one species and the people without houses are another.

    I think if we forced ourselves to at least think, “This is a mom who doesn’t have a place to live.” or “This is Tom, he got thrown out of his apartment.”

    I mean just put a face on the whole issue. We should make them real people. Then we could come up with better solutions to fix it.

    Homeless to me doesn’t feel like real people, it feels very alien you know, like it’s something that could never happen to anyone “normal”.

    And I think it can happen to normal people. I’ve had enough artists couch surf in my place to know that this could easily happen.

    Have any of you seen the guy in downtown LA that begs for change and has no face.

    Who is going to hire a guy with no face, if he went to college, yeah maybe, but if you just have a high school diploma and a not so pleasant personality who is going to hire you?

    There should be some kind of dignified safety net for that guy.

    I really hope that no face guy is on disability and he’s just begging for extra income, because that guy in particular disturbs me a great deal. Not the no face thing, but the him being on the streets and how did he get that way and what kind of horrible city do I live in that has people with no faces are begging for change up the street from MOCA.


  10. We are a society of blame.So, I’m gonna blame the smog on the damn homeless! I voted homeless. If we can get rid of them the smog will be gone!

  11. Hmm. Hard to say which is worse. They both could be symptoms of a sick society. Self-indulgent, self-centered, self-destructive, selfish.

    Oops, gotta go! My late-as-usual fengshui gal just texted me. She can’t find a place to park her Hummer.

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