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The return of blue skies to Phoenix, and Los Angeles


I love Phoenix, and Los Angeles, but I gotta tell ya, the skies there will never be as blue as in Minnesota. But in the last thirty years or so I've seen some amazing improvements. I'll see if I can give you my point of view.

I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and it really is the land of sky blue waters. And the water is so blue there because the sky is so blue. Amazingly blue. Crystal-clear blue. There are a lot of reasons for this, but mostly it's because Minnesota is mostly wide open prairie, wind swept by the arctic winds. There are ten thousand lakes there, not to mention about twice as many more puddles and swampy areas, and there really isn't much chance of dust getting into the air. And there are no mountains that could possibly trap any dusty and dirty air. The air is so clean and fresh it's just ridiculous. The bluest skies you've ever seen. Even as I kid I noticed.

When I moved to Phoenix, at age 19, I was of course very happy, but the skies weren't as clear as Minnesota. Part of that is the pollution in the air back in 1977, and part of it was simply because Phoenix is in a desert, surrounded by mountains. When the wind blows, dust kicks up - it's what gives those amazing sunsets - dust.

When I moved to Los Angeles, at age 25, I really got to see some brown skies. In the early 1980s, efforts to try to clean up the air had only really begun, and it's hard to describe how dirty and nasty the air was, even on a good day. On a bad day it was best described by Don Henley in his song "Sunset Grill" as an "auburn sky". I was living there when Don wrote that song, and he wasn't kidding. You could stare out at the auburn sky. And I mean brown. Real brown. As in "I can't believe that I'm breathing this stuff" brown. Yuk!

I moved back to Phoenix in 1989, when I was 31, and I immediately appreciated how much bluer the skies were. Phoenix had been smoggy, but never as bad as Los Angeles. And every year I can see the air get bluer and bluer. Like LA, most of the smog was caused by cars, and nowadays most cars have the kind of air pollution controls that were absolutely unthinkable in the 1970s, or '80s.

I go back to visit Los Angeles every year and I just marvel at the blue skies. I always take the shuttle from the airport, and if the driver remembers what I remember, we both agree that it's been an amazing transformation in the past thirty years.

I like blue skies.

Image at the top of this post: Looking north past McDowell and the Papago Buttes towards Camelback Mountain. The blues skies I've ever seen in Phoenix, Arizona.

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