Austin’s Air Quality, Formula One and other such events

If you want to skip to the executive summary, here it is :

  1. Austin is blessed to have significant tree cover, clean rivers (and lakes) – all of which produce clean air.
  2. If the trend to host Formula One and Moto One and other such events continues, we will no longer continue enjoying our clean air.
  3. If the trend really goes south, we risk becoming another Beijing or New Delhi – a.k.a – a living gas chamber.

How Bad Can it Get?

When I compare New Delhi’s air quality to a gas chamber, my relatives and friends in India are shocked and dismayed.

However, I know I am not too far off.

With over 100,000 new asthma cases being diagnosed every year, Delhi (and Beijing) are in a league of their own. Delhi’s children have the lungs of HEAVY, CHAIN smokers (imagine a kid smoking a pack of cigarettes every single day…and you get an idea of what Delhi doctors are saying). I am no exception – I have landed in the hospital on two separate occasions – simply for BEING outdoors (in the Delhi air) for an entire day.

It is Just A Couple of Events…How much effect can they have?

Some people might argue that this is being too ‘alarmist’. A single event (or two) cannot possibly result in such a drastic deterioration of air quality.

However, consider this:

  1. First of all, why should we take even the first step in that direction? This is a one-way road – once polluted, air quality CANNOT go back to what it was (otherwise China would have managed to address its woes by now).
  2. Austin’s popularity means more flights into and out of Austin – more cars on Austin roads – and basically – more polluting agents adding to the mix. This is EXACTLY how the large metropolitans in Indian and China got to where they are.  Their growth was their biggest enemy. This is not to say that Austin should curb its growth – but it can certainly avoid taking in unnecessary events such as Formula One.

What about the money?

Supporters argue that this event brings in close to half a billion ($500 million) to Austin businesses. Is this not worthwhile?

Firstly, we need to understand why it MOVED to Austin in the first place.  Larger cities have already realized that such events have a negative long-term impact on their city’s air and quality of life. Not worth the short-term monetary gains.

Do we really need the money that badly? As a city, our blockbuster events (SxSW and ACL) already bring in a good amount of dough. Do we need to be greedy enough to go after even more money at the cost of our health?

Summary

I love sports – and I love competitive events. However, I also love Austin – and its quality of life – a large part of which is due to it’s environmental policies. 

Anything that adversely affects Austin’s clean environment, is, in my opinion, not worth any monetary gains.  Not $500 million – Not $500 Billion even! There is no way to get clean air back once we reach a certain stage (Beijing, Shanghai, New Delhi…..are all testaments to this).

There will, however, always be ways to attract more money to a city. Especially if the city offer investors  that rarest of commodities – clean air !

Thoughts? Comments?

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