From data to action
With information, engagement and awareness, we can, as a community, come together to find a consensus on alternatives to activities that pollute and formulate new policies or solutions.
Consensus and the participation of everyone involved is crucial. Public participation enhances the quality and the effective implementation of decisions concerning the environment. Affording the public the opportunity to express its views – and requiring public authorities to take due account of those views in the decision – enhances the accountability and transparency of environmental decision-making and may strengthen public support for the decisions taken.
In the process, it contributes to greater awareness of environmental issues among both the public and public authorities. For the above reasons, public participation should be seen by all parties as a prerequisite of effective action and an opportunity for real influence
It is difficult to halt the burning of farm cuttings and waste. These are land management techniques that have been used by small farmers for centuries. And it is unrealistic for us to expect the community to stop burning firewood to heat our homes.
But we can learn, as a community, that smoke contains concentrations of particles that can affect our health and, if necessary, explore protocols for the protection of the population, especially schools and vulnerable people, at times when meteorological conditions might be likely to exacerbate the problem.
A reduction in the levels of pollutants in the air can go a long way. In one study, a 17 ug / m3 PM2.5 reduction in smoke from wood burning caused a 28% drop in deaths in winter from respiratory diseases and from cardiovascular diseases in winter. Any reduction will benefit the entire population and if it can be achieved without great sacrifices, the better.
A system for the collection of farm cuttings and waste might offer alternatives to burning. Composting and biochar are, likewise, alternatives that may be viable for many landholders. A red flag system postponing fires till meteorological conditions improve would lessen the health impact of smoke on certain days.
Car-share schemes and improved pubic transport will reduces pollution from vehicles.
A town hall ordinance might require the removal of old wood-burning stoves when the sale of a house takes place or major structural work is undertaken and require its replacement by a less-polluting ECODESIGN stove.
No doubt many promising alternatives will arise from community engagement and when agreed on consensually will go a long way to improving air quality in the valley.