By Aliya Couillard, Assistant News Editor
In early June of this summer, New Yorkers walked outside to what they may have thought was a normal summer day, but were instead faced with an orange sky and a smoggy surrounding. This atmosphere was due to the smoke from wildfires burning in Canada blowing south, engulfing New York state.
These fires caused the air quality in New York to reach unhealthy levels, impacting the lives of many New Yorkers.
Junior education major Lauren Mathews described her experiences with the unhealthy air quality, living in Pleasantville, N.Y.
“I know it was up in the hundreds. I had a soccer game get canceled because of it. It was crazy because when you looked outside it was just orangey yellow like everything had a tint to it and the air was really thick and foggy,” Mathews said.
Junior education and psychology major Yanelia Fernandez, from Rosedale, N.Y., shared her experience as well.
“It was pretty bad, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until I stepped outside. I think it [was] like the second day where the air quality was really poor. I don’t remember the exact numbers but [it was] well into the hundreds,” Fernandez said.
Furthermore, Fernandez described just how the air quality impacted her.
“I went through [soccer] practice and during it, my chest was way heavier than usual like during it I was having a hard time breathing and I mean I could breathe, but I was just having a hard time settling down my breath after doing a drill or running and so that was a little unusual,” she added.
Mathews worked in a daycare over the summer where they experienced restrictions due to the air quality.
“For the most part I was inside but we weren’t able to take the kids outside for like a week,” she said.
Mathews also shared some observations of her own when she was working at the daycare.
“I saw a lot of kids would come into school wearing masks and when they were leaving their parents would put masks on them,” she added.
Fernandez touched on her own observation of how the smoke impacted New Yorkers.
“I think it was very stressful for the entire state. My sisters both work in schools and one of my sisters is an occupational therapist and works with students who are disabled, and a lot of them were very panicky in the school building,” Fernandez explained. “My other sister works with adolescents and it’s a little easier to explain to them what’s going on and that everything is going to be okay but for the younger kids, she works with kindergarten to 3rd grade and they also have cognitive disabilities, to explain what’s going on is very difficult and a lot of them were panicking and freaking out.”
These Canadian fires were said to be started by humans, however, due to climate issues, the fires were able to spread faster and prolong. Fernandez gave her passionate take on this.
“I think it doesn’t matter whether you are blaming it on an individual person or climate change regardless, it is a human fault at the end of the day. I’m not sure about the specificities of a person starting it or not but I do know that climate change is very real and humans are the innate reason for climate change to exist. I don’t think that [the global issue] should be taken away or hidden by the fact that it may have just been one individual who did this. Even if it was one individual who did this, the way it progressed and how rampant it was in a climate so humid, [because] you know this area in the summertime is so ridiculously humid, and the way that [the fire] was able to spread so quickly shows that even if one human started it, it’s a global issue because everyone on this planet is contributing to issues with climate change,” Fernandez said.
Students feel that these wildfires are a continuous wake-up call to pay attention to our environment and how we may negatively impact it.