Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Yesterday, in Buenos Aires, thick dark clouds were suffocating the city. These clouds were not the heralds of a thunderstorm; rather, they are the marks of fires burning in the provinces of Entre Rios, Santa Fe, and the larger area of the province of Buenos Aires.
The amount of carbon monoxide in the air is, at this moment, 10 times the normal permitted amount for people to breathe. News reports suggest that the city is contaminated by the clouds of burning bushes coming from the countryside. Bus and train lines in the affected areas are closed, and fire fighters are heading from the city to the provinces, as well as to the Delta Area to fight the flames.
This represents the ecological breakdown of years of controlled burning of land to prepare it for farming. In the long run, the water can be contaminated, the ashes could clog the lungs of animals and kill of vulnerable wildlife, as well as affecting human beings.
More than 270 square miles are burning along the river ParanÃ¡, and the winds are bringing the smelly fumes down to the city. What’s dangerous is not only the high levels of carbon monoxide in the air, but also the extremely low visibility on the highways and runways from 6 this morning until 2 hours ago. Sometimes drivers could only see 2 meters in front of them, so the local police closed the routes to wait out the smoke.
As a person with allergies, I haven woken up being unable to breathe, gasping for air, even with the windows closed and ventilation blowing. It’s a dangerous situation for the elderly and the very young. But what can we do? We have to wait for rain, or for colder weather, which could combat the humidity created by the smoke.