A group of us from Moms Clean Air Force recently attended BlogHer, a large conference in San Diego. Moms Clean Air Force set up a booth so we could meet bloggers and talk to them about our effort to fight air pollution. Hundreds of people signed up to join the force. Thanks, everyone!
I was struck by many of our visitors’ comments, which fell into one of two bins.
The women who were in my generation and older said, What? I can’t believe we have to fight this fight all over again. Aren’t these attacks on the EPA awful?
Yes. It is incredible, almost surreal. Particularly coming from politicians who have repeatedly requested funds from the EPA themselves. The EPA was set up by President Nixon. It was a bipartisan effort, for Heaven’s sake. What happened to the days when every sane person understood that clean air and clean water were good for human health?
The younger women said, What? Clean air is controversial? How is that possible?
Yes. Clean air is once again something we have to fight for — and fight hard. If you were born in the 80s and onward, you won’t remember what it was like to see news footage of rivers on fire, or how suffocating it felt to live under the blankets of filthy air hanging low over our cities.
The Clean Air Act has done so much to reduce toxins in our air and water. But there’s much more to go. The unfiltered stuff coming out of coal plants is especially dangerous.
And the Clean Air Act has been a terrific contributor to our economy: it has created jobs, and helped spur on a new generation of technologies to provide cleaner fuel. The EPA is about as far from a “job-killing agency” as you can get.
Expect to hear far more of this anti-EPA rhetoric in the coming months, as lawmakers start the grim business of cutting budgets. Polluters will press for gutting EPA funding because that way, no matter what regulations are passed, there won’t be any money to enforce them. The fight will move from regulating to funding. That’s why it is important for everyone to understand how important it is to fund the enforcement of clean air laws.
The fight for the right to pollute is a lethal political game–symbolism run amok. Who pays? Our children, among whom asthma rates and neurological problems are skyrocketing. Both are connected to mercury poisoning.
And here’s an example of strange bedfellows: moms and fishermen. Fishermen are furious about that mercury spewing from coal plants–it ends up in our water. Every water body in America is under some sort of advisory for pollution. Large fish are increasingly contaminated with mercury. That’s hurting the fishing business, and hitting small fisheries hard.
The mercury spewing out of Asian coal plants is an enormous problem, too. That doesn’t mean the U.S. should stop its efforts; it means we should ramp them up. We don’t have the right to demand global change if we can’t clean up at home. American engineering has led the way for decades. This isn’t the time to lose our leadership.
Cleaning up the air and water means creating jobs. Everyone should remember this. Fouling the air and water kills jobs -– and people.
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