First, I have to say I don't remember ANY smog blocking our view of the mountains like that when I was a kid. The only memory that comes even close to the Santa Rosas and San Jacinto ever looking like the above picture was the day after the 1992 Landers' earthquake; it shook up so much dust and sand, you literally couldn't see the mountains. But if it really is going to get as hot as they say, I am sad for the ecological changes that will take place. I have walked through much of the desert and mountains, and I can't imagine growing up there without it.
This ties in nicely with Silent Spring. I just read her anecdote about how spraying for sagebrush in the American West completely altered all of the flora and fauna. Reading about how the ranchers wanted the sagebrush gone for grazing land painfully reminded me of a similarly selfish though I had when I was a child.
As a small girl (around 6), my daily ride to school would take me through the manicured and sculpted neighborhoods of the developed areas and out onto the highway that wound through the still-untouched desert. Nothing but creosote and verbena and dunes in every direction for a good 20 minutes. As a 6 year old with a short attention span, I would look at the vast desert and quickly become bored with it. I clearly remembering complaining to my mom one day, "when are they going to build something here so it isn't so ugly?"
For some reason, that selfish sentiment of a 6 year old me has stuck with me ever since. It wasn't long after that, that my teachers actually began teaching us science (which is amazing considering I went to an evangelical private school). When my 4th grade teacher began our ecology unit, my perspective of the desert changed almost overnight from seeing it as a wasteland to appreciating the astounding diversity the desert can harbor.
Not long after that came the boom of the early 1990's, and with it the development. I have walked around with a guilty conscience about it for all this time, that my young wish was what brought all the development to the desert. I never felt guilty about my parents' divorce, but I felt responsible for destroying the desert.
Developers bought up the untouched desert. Hell, I used to take a short-cut to high school through several acres of desert, until it became a housing complex. When you look at building statistics, the Coachella Valley is usually near the top of the list. Population has skyrocketed, and with it came all those cars that made the smog in the picture above.
And this, in short, is one of the reasons I don't like visiting home. It's too sad.