Forbes put out its “America’s Dirtiest Cities” list this morning, giving Fresno its “booby prize” for being the dirtiest and, in the process, not really telling us anything about our city that we didn’t already know.
The environmental degradation of the Central Valley has many contributing factors. First of all, its geography doesn’t do it any favors. It’s a big, long bowl surrounded on three sides by mountains that trap pollutants from cars and factories and oil fields in an inversion layer. Second, it’s a victim of what brought people there in the first place — rich fertile soils from which grow much of America’s fruits and vegetables. For decades farmers would burn leftover cuttings from their fields after the harvest — dumping massive amounts of lung-choking particulate matter into the air. Burning has been banned since 2004, and the air has gotten cleaner since then, but there’s still a long way to go.