And then there’s this: FRESNO is Forbes’ Dirtiest City in America for 2012

Fresno, CA. Forbes Magazine's 2012

Fresno, CA. Forbes Magazine’s 2012 “Dirtiest City in America”

Just when you thought all my family and friends back in California’s San Joaquin Valley had it rough enough, there’s this:

Forbes Magazine has named the FRESNO-MADERA metropolitan area the dirtiest city in America.

The booby prize this year for Dirtiest City in America goes to Fresno, California. This Central Valley city suffers some of the worst air in the nation, and a water supply so degraded that the city used to tell pregnant women not to drink from the tap. Fresno epitomizes the environmental challenges of the Golden State.

A bright spot in the pollution landscape is that according to this EPA report, America’s air quality has generally been getting better. Cars and trucks are more efficient, fuel blends are cleaner, and coal-fired power plants have been forced to install air-scrubbing technology.

That’s right, of all US cities over 500,000 people, Fresno – the California conservative hotbed and home of my alma mater, CSU Fresno (Go Bulldogs!) – is the dirtiest city in America for 2012 in terms of air and water quality.

And before you start laughing, Bakersfield, take a look at the number 2 spot, because there you are, once again a runner-up to Fresno. (Although, in this case, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.) In fact, 4 of America’s top 10 dirtiest cities are in the San Joaquin Valley (Fresno, Bakersfield, Modesto, and Stockton), and 6 of 10 are in California (San Jose and Riverside).

Unfortunately (but predictably), this is one of the things that happens when you keep crying, “Get government out! No more government regulations!”: you get crap in your air and water, and in places only miles away from some of the most pristine natural beauty on earth (e.g., the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP, etc.).

So keep up those anti-environmental protests, and “Drill Baby Drill”!

In the mean time, here are the 10 dirtiest cities in the nation.

Fresno and Bakersfield were dubiously named the #1 and #2 "Dirtiest cities in America" for 2012 by Forbes Magazine. In an overwhelmingly blue state, these are two politically conservative strongholds.

Fresno and Bakersfield were dubiously named the #1 and #2 “Dirtiest cities in America” for 2012 by Forbes Magazine. In an overwhelmingly blue state, Fresno and Bakersfield are two politically conservative strongholds.

1. Fresno, Calif.
The Fresno-Madera metro area takes the prize for dirtiest city in America. The 500,000 people in this area suffer from being exposed to groundwater polluted by agriculture as well as having the 5th worst year-round particle pollution in the nation, according to the American Lung Association. Sperling Air Quality Index: 1 Sperling Water Quality Index: 22

2. Bakersfield, Calif.
Bakersfield is the oil capital of California, home to some of the oldest and biggest fields in the nation. Emissions from oil and gas processing contributes to Central Valley air pollution that is the worst in the nation. According to the Lung Association, the population of 800,000 is subject to the worst particle pollution in the country and third-worst ozone. Sperling Air Quality Index: 1 Sperling Water Quality Index: 42

3. Philadelphia, Pa.

4. Bridgeport, Conn.

5. Modesto, Calif.
Modesto is another polluted city in California’s Central Valley. It’s 500,000 people have a 15.5% unemployment rate, rank 5th in short-term particle pollution and 11th in ozone. Sperling Air Quality Index: 6 Sperling Water Quality Index 34

6. Riverside, Calif.
(East of LA)

7. New Haven, Conn.

8. San Jose, Calif.
(Southern Bay Area)

9. Stockton, Calif.
Stockton summer heat exacerbates ozone levels that rank 23rd in the nation. Population is 650,000. The city has little means to fund environmental initiatives. It has sought to avert bankruptcy by laying off city employees, including a quarter of its police force. Sperling Air Quality Index: 15 Sperling Water Quality Index: 35

10. Milwaukee, Wi.

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well, that explains it: fresno is nation’s drunkest city

well, that explains it.

sometimes in life, certain things are suspected long before some scientific research or statistical analysis confirms what we already know. texas votes republican. england likes tea. the vatican likes catholicism.

and such is the case with a new survey to be published in the march 2010 issue of men’s health ranking the drunkest cities in the nation.

the winner: my hometown of fresno, ca.

i’ve told many of my professional colleagues in southern california and across the nation that we do things differently in fresno. for instance, to save money on buying meat at the super market, we hunted. a lot. my family ate something my father shot four nights a week growing up. elk, venison, wild boar – you name it, we ate it, and it was delicious.

and we drink beer in fresno. a lot. in fact, beer plays a major role in many rites of passage in fresno. i can’t recall my father every crying in public (with the exception of his father’s funeral), but i distinctly remember my father shedding a tear on the day i tapped my first keg, which was quite an proud accomplishment for a fifth grader.

and so goes the story of fresno. a big town that still retains a small town attitude. my ‘uncle jerry’ carried a .44 with him when he went on walks around the block, just in case. both my parents have concealed weapons permits, which makes sense for my dad, who was a cop, but is peculiar for my mom, the school teacher. let’s just say i did what i was told growing up.

it’s that kind of town: you don’t mess with me and i won’t mess with you. fresno is an ag community where one can still make more money working on the family farm than in some desk job. there has been an effort to revitalize the downtown area with a more sophisticated clientele in recent years. the most common way of doing this: establishing microbreweries. it’s a vicious cycle.

so congratulations to my fellow fresnans on being named the nation’s drunkest city. on behalf of those of us in the academy, like notable scholars victor davis hanson and eric cline, thank you.

a few more noteworthy items in the list of 100 cities:

  • 3 of the top 12 drunkest cities are in the central san joaquin valley of california (fresno 1, bakersfield 10, modesto 12)
  • the home town of my bride-to-be, lubbock, tx, came in at #8 which is astonishing since lubbock is a dry county!! i’ve often told roslyn that lubbock and fresno are sister cities – both flat, both ridiculously hot in the summer and freezing in the winter, both have really, really nice people, both ag towns, and everyone drives a white pickup – but now i have hard data to confirm it.
  • the soberest/least drunk city in the nation: boston, ma. go figuah. while one might expect the center of red sox nation to be a bit more tipsy, all of those top notch college students studying for endless exams must outweigh the weekend baseball crazed sox lovers.

update: sources say that one of the prime factors used in determining these rankings is the number of drunk driving arrests made over the past year. fresno is in the middle of a city-wide drunk driving crackdown in an attempt to reduce the number of incidents of drunk driving in fresno, resulting in a high percentage of dui citations. on the flip side, the combination of excellent public transportation, the smaller, european style living accommodations, and the proximity of pubs to residential establishments in boston (read: pubs downstairs and on every corner) means very few people ever drive at all, much less when drinking. it’s no excuse, but these facts do contribute to the numbers in fresno where there is no public transportation (the fresno area rapid transit busses don’t count), where everything is big and spread out, and where restaurants and pubs are located in strip malls away from homes.

here is the list:

  1. Fresno, CA                      F
  2. Reno, NV                         F
  3. Billings, MT                    F
  4. Riverside, CA                   F
  5. Austin, TX                        F
  6. St. Louis, MO                  F
  7. San Antonio, TX             F
  8. Lubbock, TX                    F
  9. Tucson, AZ                      F
  10. Bakersfield, CA               F
  11. Las Vegas, NV                F
  12. Modesto, CA                    F
  13. Columbia, SC                   F
  14. Nashville, TN                  D-
  15. Madison, WI                    D-
  16. Colorado Springs, CO    D-
  17. Denver, CO                       D-
  18. Phoenix, AZ                      D-
  19. Cheyenne, WY                D-
  20. Sacramento, CA              D-
  21. New Orleans, LA             D-
  22. Toledo, OH                      D
  23. Aurora, CO                      D
  24. El Paso, TX                      D
  25. Corpus Christi, TX           D
  26. Fargo, ND                        D
  27. San Diego, CA                 D
  28. Lexington, KY                   D
  29. Tampa, FL                         D
  30. Albuquerque, NM             D
  31. Oklahoma City, OK         D+
  32. Tulsa, OK                            D+
  33. Jacksonville, FL               D+
  34. Detroit, MI                        D+
  35. Boise City, ID                   D+
  36. Kansas City, MO             D+
  37. Washington, DC              D+
  38. Montgomery, AL               D+
  39. Omaha, NE                      D+
  40. Portland, OR                    D+
  41. Anchorage, AK                 D+
  42. Birmingham, AL             D+
  43. Greensboro, NC               C-
  44. Wichita, KS                      C-
  45. St. Petersburg, FL           C-
  46. Burlington, VT                 C-
  47. Houston, TX                     C-
  48. Los Angeles, CA              C-
  49. Charleston, WV               C
  50. Orlando, FL                      C
  51. Spokane, WA                   C
  52. Lincoln, NE                      C
  53. Arlington, TX                    C
  54. Des Moines, IA                 C
  55. Fort Worth, TX                 C
  56. Providence, RI                 C
  57. Anaheim, CA                    C
  58. Milwaukee, WI                  C
  59. Pittsburgh, PA                  C
  60. Baltimore, MD                  C
  61. Indianapolis, IN               C
  62. Louisville, KY                   C
  63. Raleigh, NC                     C
  64. Seattle, WA                      C+
  65. Grand Rapids, MI           C+
  66. Buffalo, NY                       C+
  67. Wilmington, DE              C+
  68. Hartford, CT                     C+
  69. Sioux Falls, SD                C+
  70. Virginia Beach, VA          C+
  71. Memphis, TN                   C+
  72. Cincinnati, OH                 C+
  73. Cleveland, OH                 C+
  74. Charlotte, NC                   C+
  75. Oakland, CA                    C+
  76. Little Rock, AR                 B-
  77. Dallas, TX                        B-
  78. Richmond, VA                  B-
  79. San Jose, CA                   B-
  80. Minneapolis, MN            B-
  81. Jackson, MS                    B-
  82. Jersey City, NJ                 B-
  83. Columbus, OH                 B-
  84. Atlanta, GA                       B-
  85. Chicago, IL                       B
  86. San Francisco, CA          B
  87. St. Paul, MN                     B
  88. Honolulu, HI                     B
  89. Philadelphia, PA              B+
  90. Portland, ME                    B+
  91. Manchester, NH               B+
  92. Fort Wayne, IN                 A-
  93. New York, NY                   A-
  94. Durham, NC                    A
  95. Newark, NH                      A
  96. Miami, FL                         A
  97. Salt Lake City, UT            A
  98. Rochester, NY                 A+
  99. Yonkers, NY                    A+
  100. Boston, MA                      A+
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