Friday, March 25, 2022

Florida's Black Snow

Sugar cane burning is so dangerous that it is banned in India. The practice is also being phased out in Brazil and Thailand.Sugar cane burning will soon only be permitted in one of the top four sugar-producing countries - the United States.

When sugar cane farmers burn their fields the cane emits huge clouds of black smoke. This smoke contains fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which is incredibly dangerous to the health of anyone who is unfortunate enough to live downwind from a cane field.

Half of America's sugar is produced in the Glades region in Florida. The Glades is also home to 31,000 people. People who in winter and spring of every year are regularly forced to breathe in the smoke from burning sugar cane.Propublica and the Palm Beach Post have analyzed cane burn permits in the Glades and smoke plume data to map out where black smoke was a problem on each day between December 2020 and April 2021. 

You can view the results of this analysis in Black Snow: The Smoke Comes Every Year. Propublica's article on Florida's sugar cane smoke problem includes an interactive map which models the smoke extent from sugar cane burning for each day of winter & spring 2021.This map also shows the locations of Florida's cane fields and the locations of the areas main towns. The map shows how air pollution from sugar cane burning is a major problem for the residents of Pahokee, Belle Glade and South Bay. Towns where about a third of the people live in poverty. According to Propublica the "smoke rarely reaches wealthier, whiter cities like West Palm Beach".

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