Name: Karen Nielsen
Location: The Black Hills, South Dakota
Karen’s Story: I have mainly lived in two very low populated areas of the world. I was born and raised in Orkney, Scotland, UK. I have now lived nearly as long in The Black Hills, South Dakota, USA. There isn’t a lot of obvious air pollution in either place. I believe this is due to the low population and lack of industry.
Some members of our family suffer from seasonal hay fever-type allergies in both places. We feel these are caused by sensitivities to natural conditions and are not exacerbated by air pollution.
In Orkney, the wind and sea generate very fresh air. I only have a few memories of smellings chemicals and fire when I was young. This is probably from living on a farm. I still enjoy the fresh, crisp air in Orkney when I visit home.
The Black Hills have wonderfully clear air also. Air pollution is most obvious here when a wildfire is burning. Wildfires are fought aggressively here.
The majority of our energy here is generated from coal-fired electric power plants. We have lots of sunshine and some wind here. These alternative energy sources would reduce air pollution. There wouldn’t be as many jobs though (the coal fields and power plants are within commutable distance) and that would be a major concern in a poorer state such as South Dakota.
In this area the collected garbage is not burnt but buried – that’s another issue though.
On cold, still winter days the wood smoke from fireplaces is very apparent hanging in the air. This is a popular heat source here in our wooded, poorer area.
As a family, we try to keep what we can out of the landfills by recycling. We don’t have a wood stove or fireplace. We have hens to eat our kitchen waste. We do burn our personal rubbish though. The air pollution issues in our area seem larger than what we can change as many of the political decisions made here are financially driven not environmentally driven.