By John Rutherford Seydel III
Recently, Atlanta hit a milestone that proves a major metropolitan area can clean the air its residents breathe, while increasing the number of jobs and industries that keep them working. As the City’s newest Director of Sustainability, I wanted to highlight what this means for Atlanta’s present and future air quality.
The Atlanta metropolitan area was able to meet ozone standards that were established in 2008 and put them in place by 2012. This may not seem like much of a feat, but make no mistake, this is a significant achievement for an area working to balance vitality and livability.
For much of the South’s modern history, growth and ozone went hand-in-hand. Emissions from cars, trucks, factories and coal-fired power plants all reacted with the hot southern sun to create that ground-level ozone that has vexed metro areas for decades.
Breathing ozone is harmful to your lungs and it’s especially hard on children and those with asthma.
But for a long time, there was this notion that cleaning the air meant hurting businesses and industries, and jeopardizing the wages of the workers. Atlanta proves that’s no longer the equation. The metro area has added jobs and people, while at the same time cutting the number of high ozone days.
According to the American Lung Association, Atlanta had the fewest number of high-ozone days since the association started keeping count 18 years ago. That means there are fewer air-quality warnings in Atlanta. Fewer days where you have to worry about exercising outside. Or worry about your kids at recess. Or your grandparents on their walk around the neighborhood.
This is certainly worthy of celebration, but we understand that the metropolitan Atlanta area still has much work to do. And we’re doing it.
While President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement to address worldwide climate change, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is moving forward.
Mayor Reed and 70 other mayors have pledged to continue improving the health of our cities. They will do it by pushing for fewer harmful emissions, building better public transportation and embracing modern, clean and sustainable energy.
As someone dedicated to building Atlanta’s sustainability, I stand with Mayor Reed and his efforts to improve the South’s environment. I’m proud of the progress this city has made to improve the air, and proud that we are working even harder for a cleaner future.
Yes, Atlanta has a ways to go. But I take inspiration from folks like my grandfather, Ted Turner’s example that you can create jobs, build industries and grow cities while still taking care of the place you call home.
John Rutherford Seydel III, the eldest of Ted Turner’s grandchildren, is Atlanta’s Director of Sustainability. He is a trustee in the Turner Foundation.