Examples include the Smog Free Tower, a vacuum created by an artist that sucks in dangerous particulates in the air that harm our lungs, and condenses the pollution into gemstones. City Trees are vertical panels that may be attached to a park bench in a public art project, or to highway partitions. They deploy hardy pollution-eating plants like moss and lichen into cities and near major highways. Each unit cleans as much air as a forest of 275 trees, at a fraction of the space and cost. Vertical forests incorporate plants on buildings to clean the air and bring greater natural beauty to structures.
Installing solar panels and other renewable energy technology reduces demand from energy sources that harm our lungs, such as coal-fired power plants. Spring is a great time for planting, and planting would employ people outside in ways that respect social distancing. Instead of bailouts, small work crews maintaining social distancing and operating around the clock could get it done, enabling people to return to cleaner, greener businesses and infrastructures that help the community, the planet and the economy.
The best way to safeguard public health, of course, is not to pollute our air in the first place. Coal-fired power plants are terrible for our lungs, producing particulates (smog) as well as lead, mercury, arsenic and a host of other harmful pollutants. Government investments can help transition these sites to provide renewable energy jobs, converting both current and decommissioned sites.
Those in the South and West can be converted to solar. Those on water can be converted to hydro or floating solar arrays. Many in windy areas could be converted for wind power. Biomass makes sense in agricultural, paper and lumber regions to turn biowaste into clean energy. Government stimulus money can attract private investors and employ workers to make these transitions.
Marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with investments in clean energy and the strengthening of environmental protection will yield health benefits for years to come.