The Rocky Invasion

Colorado’s overpopulation causing major air pollution problems.


Lola Baum

The forest fires of 2020 reduced Colorado’s air quality to the worst in the world. Due to climate change, forest fires occur with increasing frequency.

Lola Baum, Staff Writer

It doesn’t take but a stroll on I-25 to conclude that our state is overpopulated. Our ever-growing state of Colorado is contributing to severe atmospheric damage. According to the United States Census Bureau, our state population has increased by 97% since 1980. To put that into perspective, that is nearly an additional three million people in a relatively short time.

Britton Stephens, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, said, “I know that we have the challenge of a lot of people living in one area, so there are lots of cars here on the front range. Then there are a lot of oil and gas extraction activities going on, particularly North of Denver; there are a lot of wells and those produce a lot of compound relief. A lot comes up directly harmful or reacts with sunlight, ozone, or other harmful gasses.”

A rise of new residents requires using more natural resources including trees, water, and fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas). The action of extracting these resources for the benefit of the people, in return, releases more pollutants and waste that reduces air quality, risking the health of animals and humans. Stephens said, “The atmosphere is changing in so many different ways. The pollution has essentially been sort of more local effects with gasses that don’t live in our atmosphere for very long but are bad to breathe or they harm crops or other things we care about.”

Colorado is no stranger to wildfires, which are also contributing to our air quality. Stephens said, “We also have the problem of forest fires during the summer, which is not just forest fires in Colorado but other places as well.” The debris and ash from a wildfire alone contain many detrimental particles that can enter our bodies through the air we breathe. Any moisture can potentially keep dangerous particles out of the air.

Some high school students feel hopeless as to what they can do to stop this problem. However, Stephens encourages students “to drive less and walk or bike more and encourage friends and family members to do the same.”

Outside the front office of BHS, several bikes are parked. Each bike reflects green transportation. (lol)

Stephens said, “If you can get that electricity from renewable sources, then they produce less carbon dioxide emissions, and then ultimately we have to convert as much as we can to electricity.” From the report by Transport Environment, an electric vehicle emits 37% less carbon dioxide than a gas-powered car.

According to NPR News, “California State regulators approved a policy Thursday [August 27, 2022] that will ban the sale of new gas cars by 2035 in what is the country’s largest auto market.”

When the air quality index is high, Colorado residents must take precautions to keep from risking our health. Boulder County Government Officials state “On windy days, limit outdoor activity in the affected communities or stay inside and keep windows and doors closed. If you must be outside on a windy day, wearing an N95 mask is recommended. Anyone with respiratory illnesses is advised to talk with their healthcare provider about what to do to stay safe.” One can find air quality alerts on places like IQAir, AirNow, and Plume Labs.