Southern California environment news and trends

Song of the Week: "Smoggy Mountain High," by Key Losers, for clean cars and air pollution news

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The Hollywood sign and the undeveloped land that surrounds it are seen against the snow-covered San Gabriel Mountains.

This week's song comes to me courtesy of my Off-Ramp colleague Kevin Ferguson. "Smoggy Mountain High," by Key Losers, is a song from the band's most recent album, "California Lite."

Smoggy Mountain High (from "California Lite" by Key Losers) by P.W. Elverum & Sun, ltd.

Its specific subject is the San Gabriel Mountains, hard to see through particulate matter and smog pollution that gets trapped in the LA Basin. 

Beyond the city they are towering
obscured sometimes, but still they bring
eternal height in a dying world
a deeper look into the sky
beyond the city they are flowering
I see them sometimes when I'm in my car
I often want to go up to them
I get distracted and I forget

Key Losers is a band whose name is perhaps inspired by a Guided by Voices song. According to their website, "Key Losers is a band based in Portland, Oregon, whose songwriter, singer, guitarist, and only constant member is Katy Davidson." Davidson seems to be in several bands I have liked, including Dear Nora (in San Francisco) and YACHT. She says about the record:

This album is about a few subjects at once: loneliness, transportation, and self-removal from nature at the hands of our increasing technological obsession. I use Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, as well as suburban Arizona and Oregon, as my backdrop.

Really, this song can be in honor of several things. Today the California Air Resources Board is deciding on a package of "advanced clean car" initiatives designed to do some "technology forcing," which would further cut the state's contribution to climate changing greenhouse gases, and mobile sources' contribution to airborne particulate matter that causes health problems. 

My colleague Stephanie O'Neill reported on a study of the cost of those health problems earlier this week. 

And the lyrics of the song remind me of a one-man show about global warming I saw on Monday night. Actor Mike Farrell played Dave Keeling, a cliamtologist who developed a method for measuring armospheric carbon in parts per million, making a continuous record at Mauna Loa Observatory for decades. Keeling spent time at Caltech, and there was a funny line in the play about him thinking about going up to the San Gabriels, which he couldn't see from the flats. 

Listen to the Songs of the Week 2012.

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