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Clean Air: You Have to Be In It to Win It

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In New York, the tag line for the lotto ticket that folks line up to buy is, "You have to be in it to win it." It's a fair assessment of most things in life... even clean air.

Right now, our country is at a turning point on many issues. One of these is the matter of whether we get clean air. It may not garner as much visibility as who the 2012 Republican candidate will be, or Sarah Palin's version of the midnight tale of Paul Revere -- but it's as vital. It's omnipresent, because everyone in this country breathes.

That's one of the reasons that I have been blogging for Moms Clean Air Force. The community is building a base of parents -- and others -- who see this concern as having critical ramifications. Primarily, the future of our children.

The facts are out there. I've already written about many of them:

  • 400,000 newborns in the United States are exposed to mercury levels that cause developmental delays and learning disabilities from air toxins.
  • Premature deaths and the prevention of respiratory illness in children and adults are the result of the current Clean Air Act.
  • Coal plants are currently emitting 386,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants annually -- while 9 millions kids under 18 have been diagnosed with asthma.

It kind of seems like a no-brainer, except for the fact that more red herrings are being thrown around than you might see at a fish market. Favorite anti-regulation rationales include, "It's bad for the economy; it's too expensive; people will lose their jobs."

Where's all that American exceptionalism people are continuously invoking? Let's explore renewables and create green alternatives. Mae Jemison, scientist and astronaut, told me in 2010 that America had dropped the ball in the 1970s -- when we had the lead on green energy. Her explanation was "a failure of imagination."

When I try to picture what life will be like for my son's children, in the middle of this century, I have visions of a Soylent Green scenario. The film, which came out in 1973, placed its story in New York City in 2022. Pollution has brought about extreme temperature elevation and all of the world's natural resources have been ruined. Sounds pretty crazy, unless it becomes a reality.

Which is why when the Environmental Protection Agency introduced the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in March of this year, the public was presented with a key opportunity to weigh in with their comments -- before the standards become finalized in November.

However, the movement for pushback can't be driven by just a few lawmakers and a handful of people. It needs active participation, viral discussion, and a smart use of social media tools. Be part of these efforts by liking Moms Clean Air Force on Facebook and connecting via Twitter @MomsCAF. Go to the website. Check out the "What You Can Do" and "Resources" tabs. Take a look at the list of those who have advocated for Congress to Uphold the Clean Air standards. It includes groups like The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Lung Society, and The Children's Environmental Health Network. Then scrutinize American Electric Power, a top air polluter, recently taken to task in the New York Times editorial, "A.E.P. Protests Too Much." Thanks to the work of the Sunlight Foundation, you can see the breakdown of their contributions and lobbying activities. One of their "Most Frequently Disclosed Lobbying Issues" is "Clean Air and Water." My personal favorite is looking at the numbers when you track lobbying on their behalf from 1997-2012.

On Monday, June 27, MCAF will be hosting its first Blogtalk Radio show, Waiting to Inhale, about the soaring rates of asthma among African-American children, and what mothers can do about it. (RSVP here.) Environmental justice is a big part of this conversation, and the needle is just starting to move on this. This show will look at the connection between the location of coal-powered electric plants -- and the poorer neighborhoods where they are sited.

Advocating for what you believe in is a lot of work, but getting what you don't want is much worse. Don't leave the heavy lifting to others.

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This article was written for the Moms Clean Air Force blog.