Pittsburgh Pollution Prejudice

Steven Hayward takes apart a Wall Street Journal story about air pollution in Pittsburgh. Thanks. To anyone who knows the city the story is plainly absurd. I have a demonstration hanging on the walls of my living room. Here is an E. O. Goldbeck panoramic photograph of Pittsburgh taken from Mount Washington in 1938. Goldbeck had to stay in the city for a week to get a shot this clear!

Here is a Goldbeck photograph taken from the same spot in 1980:

Today the air is much cleaner than it was then. It’s not hard to take pictures like this one (I took it in 2009):

Small wonder that the Journal story has to try to convince the reader that air pollution is to be taken seriously despite appearances of vast improvement.

In fact, air quality across the country has been improving steadily for decades. As Hayward points out, Pittsburgh is now typical of large cities, having air quality comparable to or better than cities such as Atlanta and significantly better than New York or Silicon Valley. Environmentalists have to go further and further from ordinary perceptions to convince people that conditions require expensive programs, economic sacrifices, and radical lifestyle changes.

One thought on “Pittsburgh Pollution Prejudice

  1. Of course, it helps that all the mills have closed. The story of the Pittsburgh area is the story of the transition from heavy industry powered by the local coal, e.g., J&L, to cleaner, smarter work, e.g., Google. As a teenager I worked at a local mill (Moltrup Steel), which is, of course, long gone. I was a college kid and moved on, but a lot of people in the area weren’t able to “re-tool.” The human face of creative destruction. But the air is nicer. As is the river.

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