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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

At UF-led panel, Gainesville residents voice concerns about air quality

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With climate change on their minds, about a dozen local residents attended a UF-led panel Sunday to ask questions and get answers.

Held at the Straughn Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Professional Development Center, the live-streamed discussion featured UF experts in the fields of immunology, sustainability and environmental engineering.

Some attendees — and those who tuned in online — voiced concerns that the city’s air quality, made worse by commercial expansion, would worsen allergies and asthma.

Others wondered what scientists were doing to improve air quality.

David Sistrand, a 62-year-old Archer resident, said he mainly wanted to know how climate change affects his family’s health.

“Let’s do something now and not wait,” he said.

Robert Nedbor-Gross, a panel member and a UF doctoral candidate studying air quality, said that, in the past 25 years, temperatures in Florida have increased and summer temperatures have extended by 50 days.

In response to a question about global-warming skeptics, Nedbor-Gross said that kind of thinking prevents progress.

“Climate change is very real,” he said. “We’re about as sure that climate change is happening as we are that dinosaurs existed.”

Lisa Lundgren, a 27-year-old UF doctoral student who helped organize the event, said by opening the floor to residents, scientists could speak to them on a personal level and teach them about climate change and how they could mitigate its effects.

A second discussion, focused on water quality, will be held Oct. 26 at the Freedom Community Center, located at 7340 SW 41st Place, she said.

“I would say the purpose (of this event) is to get the community communicating with scientists,” she said.

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