They say the sunsets in Los Angeles are so beautiful because the smog and hazy sky enhances that pink hue. They are wrong, there is nothing positive about air pollution, and though most know about LA’s notorious smog problem, Angelenos are probably not aware of the amount of pollutants surrounding their neighborhoods – where they eat, sleep, and send their kids to school.
During the Hack for LA! event, Ted Timmons and Tom Marthaler created an interactive map of Los Angeles that identifies the worst source of polluters throughout the city as well as the most vulnerable sites. The map shows the proximity of polluters such as dry cleaners, airports and landfill methane to schools, hospitals and parks. Oil fields, refineries and oil well sites are also in abundance throughout the city, so much so that the last is listed with a warning that it may cause data overload to show all the oil wells in LA. That is dispiriting. Atlantic Cities reports that Los Angeles used to produce over 1/5th of the nation’s oil in the 1920s, and many oil wells – even closed wells – still seep toxic gases into the air.
The map, with vulnerable sites displayed in blue, are clearly outnumbered and surrounded by the black polluters. Timmons and Marthaler hope to make the site more comprehensive by showing wind data. In terms of pollution levels, it’s not just the locations of toxic sites but also how their pollutants are distributed into the air that makes a difference.
Why I’m Curious
I think the convergence of tech and civic engagement is one of the most positive ways technology impacts our daily life. I’m curious if this kind of representation will impact how people in LA think about air pollution. I’m also curious if that would impact how they lead their daily lives. It has been done before with environmentally-friendly cars. If any city can embrace this issue and work with technologists, data scientists and activists to make a change, I think LA is a great place to start.