The seasonal leaf blower ban is now in effect. However, an open window is all that is needed to confirm it has had little impact.

I would have thought that Montclair, which prides itself in its progressive politics, would rally around this issue. Leaf blowers are indisputably harmful for the environment and the people who live and work here. Instead, this debate has been reduced to eyerolls about a problem that apparently only exists because a “Karen” wants it quiet. This branding is so egregious, and yet so effective, that it feels straight out of the right-wing playbook. While leaf blowers in Montclair are not the fault of right-wing politicians, it is the stuff that fuels them: peak liberal hypocrisy.

We have 11 years to avert climate catastrophe, before exhausing our "climate budget," at current emissions rates and crossing a dangerous threshold of 1.5 degrees of temperature increase, according to an analysis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A 2021 New York Times editorial called leaf blowers “environmental hell.” A Washington Post article explains that leaf blowers emit not only dangerously high amounts of carbon monoxide, but also nitrous oxides and hydrocarbons, which contribute to smog and acid rain. Indeed, tests by Edmunds (a resource for car enthusiasts) revealed that two hours of leaf-blower usage emits the same amount of hydrocarbons as a drive from Texas to Alaska in a 6,200 pound Raptor. Now, I would never claim to be environmentally perfect, nor am I asking it of you. But let’s be clear: your carbon footprint would made meaningfully lower if you stopped use leaf blowers on your property. Instead, what I see are landscapers blowing dirt around “Climate Action Now” signs all around our so-called progressive community.

Climate catastrophe will come for us all. But it is already disproportionally affecting marginalized and underserved communities. This will only get worse. I would never have associated progressive Montclair with the world view that the rich are entitled to a lawn without blemish while the rest of the world burns. But this is what I see. Further, I am dumbfounded by the claim that banning leaf blowers will hurt the employees of the landscaping companies. This is almost laughable in its elitism. The human beings who are leaving your driveway dirt-free are being exposed to fumes that are known to increase cancer, heart disease and asthma, while yielding a machine that emits noise levels close to 100 decibels, 15 decibels over what it takes to permanently damage ones hearing.

Many of my fellow liberals may read this and feel some cognitive dissonance. You always vote blue, but you enjoy your pristine lawn. To deal with this discomfort, you may even comment on this letter to call me a “Karen.” Go right ahead. But before you do, consider that only one of us in this scenario is acting out of extreme self-entitlement, performing impressive mental leaps to justify the harm they are causing to others for their own comfort, and actively putting already vulnerable people at further risk.

But it is not me.

Bethany Chase

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