About the Air

Some ways to think about the air


Particulate Matter just means tiny particles, PM2.5 means very tiny particles – less than 2.5 microns across. PM is generated by many industrial processes and things like diesel fuel combustion.

The problem is that these tiny particles easily slip into our lungs and bloodstream. They’re highly correlated with respiratory disease, heart disease, and even diabetes. The amount of exposure you have matters, how much, for how long. So does your own vulnerability: children and the elderly should, in particular, try to avoid prolonged exposure.

Historically communities of color and low income have had to live near industrial sources of PM– things like factories, coal plants, hubs of transportation that bring lots of diesel trucks. Even through the Bay Area has cleaned up its ambient air quite a lot since the 70’s (thanks to the EPA and the BAAQMD) there are many locations with very low air quality. This project is working to make those places more public.

The state is working on a new monitoring plan that will allow us to know more about these very local sources of pollution. This project will create a public presence for the air and encourage people to get involved with this plan.


Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is all around us, it’s what we breathe out and it’s the stuff that plants absorb to build their mass. CO2 also absorbs infrared light. It’s what allows the earth to stay warm when the sun goes away.

CO2 has an annual cycle as plants absorb it in the winter and release it when they decompose in the fall and winter but it also has a clear long-term trend. As we burn fossil fuels, we release more CO2 into the atmosphere. It changes the balance of heat absorption and diffusion - the average global temperature goes up and this will have dramatic impacts for our planet: sea level rise, ocean acidification, changed weather patterns, extreme weather patterns like floods, drought, wildfires.

These changes will then impact our societies – massive human migration, changed access to land that support crops and land that allows for comfortable living. How we deal with our changed climate will express the values of our society.

CO2 binds all humanity together. But although we all share the same global atmosphere, some of us are changing it more than others, and some of us will be affected by that change more than others.


(four short films about how we know our air)

coming soon!