Vernon serves up poor air quality

Resident protests the city's plans for dining areas downtown

In your article, “Patio drinks approved” (July 18), we learned that Vernon city council has approved the serving of alcohol to diners who choose to eat on Vernon sidewalks. One assumes council and business owners believe that this will encourage more people to eat outdoors downtown.

In the article, the city’s communications co-ordinator, Tanya Laing Gahr, is reported as saying “…. patrons get to benefit from sitting outdoors to take full advantage of the region’s climate.”  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read that.

Is Ms. Laing Gahr not aware that, for many years, Vernon has, “enjoyed” the poorest air quality in B.C.?  Has she not read the recent OECD Report on air pollution which states:

“Outdoor air pollution kills more than 3.5 million people a year globally, far more than was previously estimated. Air pollution has now become the biggest environmental cause of premature death, overtaking poor sanitation and a lack of clean drinking water. In most OECD countries, the death toll from heart and lung diseases caused by air pollution is much higher than the one from traffic accidents.”

If members of council are aware of the OECD report, how can they support the licensing of more outdoor eating/drinking areas? Would the mayor, an experienced physician, eat a meal and drink a glass of wine while seated one metre from a pickup truck’s exhaust pipe, exposed to its fumes as it drives off?  I think not.  City council has within its power the means to banish from downtown dining, the biggest environmental cause of premature death.  Yet it issues more licenses to expose residents to the same.

As I write I look out upon the smoke from several fires that is casting a thick haze over our city – one more aspect of the region’s climate.

Instead of issuing further licenses, council should ban all outdoor meal service on city streets.  For the sake of our population’s lungs I urge them to do so.  What is it going to take for them to do the right thing?


Jo Jones