General Education

“O Beautiful for Spacious Skies”…Except the Fourth of July

“O Beautiful for Spacious 
Skies”…Except the Fourth of July
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Nineteen-year-old Valentina profile
Nineteen-year-old Valentina July 4, 2017

“Beautiful for spacious skies…from sea to shining sea. ” The classic American tune marvels at our country’s spacious skies, which is ironic since our skies are the cloudiest on the year’s m

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“Beautiful for spacious skies…from sea to shining sea.” The classic American tune marvels at our country’s spacious skies, which is ironic since our skies are the cloudiest on the year’s most patriotic day—and I’m not talking about rain clouds.

On the fourth of July, you can simply look up into the sky and catch sight of the overwhelming clouds of smoke from fireworks. This fact goes unspoken about and pretty much neglected throughout the holiday and even the days after. It seems to be like the big elephant in the room since everyone sees the damage and extreme amount of chemicals that are released into the air on this day. Nonetheless, firework displays continue being the symbolic tradition of  4th of July celebrations. Without fireworks, most Americans would have nothing to look forward to after their social gatherings and kids would  be disappointed at the lack of explosives after a long beach day.

The spectacle of firework displays began in Europe during the 17th century and eventually made its way to the United States most likely due to the invasion of European immigrants after Christopher Colombus’ arrival. These explosives were used to celebrate America’s very first Independence Day and quickly gained popularity. At such an early time in the country’s social, economic, and environmental advancements, not many consumers questioned the contents of fireworks or the effects of the celebratory ritual. All citizens knew was that these fireworks were loud, pretty, and festive, which served as an attractive form of celebrating for all ages.

Like most questionable recreational activities, studies have provided new information and facts that are alarming and make consumers think twice about lighting up fireworks every fourth. There are several types of fireworks (rockets, pinwheels, Roman Candles, firecrackers) and they all work the same way, with the same components. Each firework is a missile containing multiple tightly packed chemicals that are given life once heat is added. Once you use your lighter to get the celebration going, these chemicals are given enough energy to burn with the oxygen in the air and transform into other chemicals that linger in our midst. Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, and nitrogen are released from the chemical release.

According to, Nitrogen is the “bad guy of global warming and we should worry about its effects not only to the environment, but to our own health. This chemical causes damage to the ozone layer with effects such as Acid Rain that is inked Alzheimer’s disease, brain damage, and respiratory problems. This is only a snippet of the effects that ONE of the chemicals from firework celebrations cause and it is already an alarming analysis. Lucy Sandback from brings attention to this by saying,

“…although carbon dioxide causes climate change and its associated problems, nitrogen compounds are arguably worse. They have a greater global warming potential, could lead to more exaggerated climate change problems, and cause havoc with health and the environment to boot!”

Who doesn’t enjoy a good ol’ poolside BBQ with the background noise of firecrackers from all over the neighborhood blasting in our once “Spacious Skies”. You might even say that the 4th of July would not be the same without the fireworks.  However, a smoker in the fifties might have claimed that an outing wouldn’t be the same without a good ol’ cigar in his mouth.

What do you think? Might there be any alternate form of celebrating our country’s independence other than exploding chemical compounds? Share your thoughts using the hashtag #stepupmag! Happy non-explosive fourth.


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