Current Environmental Issues

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As I began to look at the environmental issues in the area in which I live I was amazed to find only one real issue exists. The air quality is the Knoxville Tennessee area is at a moderate level around 57% of the time. It is at an unhealthy level around 12.9 % of the time. This has an effect on all living organisms because of the air quality in which they breathe. With that said, it is important to note that the area is majority agricultural and has an abundance of water due to being connected to so many national park sites.

There are several causes for the issue with air quality but the primary factor is geographical. Knoxville sits right in the middle of several mountains. There are the Cumberland Mountains to the east, the Appalachian Mountains to the north, the Smokey Mountains to the west, and the Foothill Mountains to the south. This creates a bowl like geography in which all air pollutants have issue with escaping.

Another issue is the amount of combustion engines that are using petroleum to operate them. From cars, to farm equipment, there is no shortage in the use of fuel in this area. The interstate is also a factor in the amount of pollution that is in the air. Knoxville is host to one of the major interstate connectors in the United States. I40 and I75 interchange in the downtown area of Knoxville. This provides a mass amount of traffic, specifically tractor-trailers hauling material to the north and south.

The last factor is the tourism that brings so many visitors from all over the world. The Smokey Mountains is second to only the rain forest for number of living species in a given area. It also hosts the Appalachian Trail that many people love to hike. And of course you have Dollywood and Dolly’s Splash Country that draws well over a million visitors every year. With all of this congestion and the geographical issues, it is no wonder that air quality is bad.

There are six common air pollutants that are monitored by the EPA. These are as follow: ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and lead. All of these are monitored by state EPA and have to be reported on the federal level. If there is an issue with a particular area, the local government has to provide a plan to get the area back to acceptable levels.

Currently, when the air quality reaches the moderate level, the local news along with the warning system that has been implemented will post the issue and suggest that people car pool or stay home for the remainder of that day. This is just a band-aid attempt to fix a growing issue. In the state of Tennessee there are no vehicle inspections that require a vehicle to pass emissions tests. The reason for this is because of the poverty rate in the state. People just can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars a year to have their vehicles pass these types of inspections. However, If the issue is not addressed then it will lead to a much bigger problem for future generations.

Some of the proposed fixes for the air quality are as follows: First is to increase public transit that would span over a much larger area. The issue with this has been and will continue to be the tax increase that this would bring on the local taxpayers. This can be overcome by instituting a tourist tax that would generate income to offset the cost of the transit. Another way to generate this income is to institute tolls on the interstates that many travel and use that money for the new transit.

Secondly, to add additional wheel tax on every vehicle that is titled to the same person. This would encourage people to do more car-pooling and have fewer vehicles that produce the pollution. The issue here is infringing on peoples right to capitalism. The real question here is what is more important, what we want now, or what is best for future generations? The answer is obvious, however, people have historically chosen what they want now over what they want most.

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