Readers of Slow Love Life know that I'm what you'd call an older mom; I suppose I should refer to my kids as adult kids, since they're in their twenties. They're on their own. But I still worry about them. Once a mom, always a mom....Lately, I've been examining my soul about what I can do (with the rest of my life) to make their lives--and, someday, their children's lives--better.
I'm excited to share a new project that I've just started. The Environmental Defense Fund--for whom I've been writing a column called Personal Nature--is giving us a web forum for a grass roots campaign to mobilize parents around strengthening the Clean Air Act, called MOMS CLEAN AIR FORCE. We'll be online at first, but over the next nine months we'll go live, too. (It has been a while since I've marched in a demonstration, but I'm ready.) I'm impressed by the marvelous group of bloggers we have already drawn to the cause.
Last week the Environmental Protection Agency released the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the first-ever national policy to regulate the nasty stuff spewing from the coal plants that provide us with electricity. These standards have been 20 years in the making. In that time, American engineers have developed cost-effective technologies to scrub the emissions from coal plants. Many responsible coal-fired plant owners have installed that technology. Many power companies--and even some coal companies--support these regulations.
But then there are the pro-polluters. The politicians, business people, lobbyists, coal operators who do not want to be regulated. They use the same arguments they've always used: the technology isn't there. Wrong. It isn't cost-effective. Wrong. It will hurt revenues. Wrong. It will cost jobs. Wrong. We don't want the government telling us what to do. Say what?
Even when the government is protecting our well-being? protecting the health of our children? Because that's what is at the bottom of this fight. It shouldn't be about politics, right or left. It shouldn't be about money. It should be about health.
Mercury is shockingly awful stuff. The more I learn, the angrier I get that it is being spewed into our air. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that has been linked to brain damage in developing fetuses and developmental issues in children's brains. There are lots of other poisons coming from those smoke stacks too. (I've pulled together a "cheat sheet" on this issue for readers.)
People who live under the smokestacks are the worst hit. But these poisons disperse, and everyone is affected. We're all breathing the same air. And eating the same mercury-contaminated food--why do you think pregnant women are told to limit how much tuna they eat? Where do you think that mercury is coming from? The air!
I'm going to be writing about all these things over the coming months, both at Slow Love Life (as usual) and at Moms Clean Air Force--and I'll be joined by a group of bloggers who write about children's health, social justice issues, the environment, parenting; writers who come at this subject from different angles.
But we all drill down to the same bedrock. Protecting our children. VL, at miscellaneousmusings, in a recent comment section at Slow Love Life, wrote about the "roots of cruelty." I've been thinking about that phrase--and that potent word, cruelty. We don't often use such a strong term. But it is appropriate here. It is cruel to poison people. It is cruel (and stupidly shortsighted) to put money ahead of health. It is cruel to cause damage with utter disregard to the impact on the future.
The polluting coal plant owners have children. The pro-pollution politicians and lobbyists have babies--or grandchildren. Don't they want to keep them safe? So why are they playing political games with children's health?
As you can see, I'm furious about this issue. Never did I think that I would be walking around talking about how much I love the Clean Air Act, but there you have it. Some of us still remember when rivers were so polluted they caught fire--as in Cleveland, Ohio in 1969. When the smog in LA and NYC burned your eyes. The Clean Air Act, signed into law in 1970 by none other than President Richard Nixon, was a bipartisan miracle. One of our country's proudest--and most important--moments. Here is a link to the Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act.
Now we want to undo the good we have accomplished? We want to gut EPA's funding?
My level of outrage has been growing over the last few years, as I've followed the machinations of lobbyists, disinformers, and polluters.
The stakes are too high. I'm a mother who wants her children--and their children--to know that I did everything I could to make their world better. Not worse.
So I am fighting back. One thing I do know: Politicians don't like to make moms angry. So let's use that power.
I'm not an expert in anything but being a loving mother. Perhaps it is a function of getting older, but being a concerned, engaged citizen--and having the right to fight--means more to me than it ever did.
I'm hoping that you will feel as passionately as I do, and spread the word. Please let me hear any ideas you have about how to be effective in this campaign. Right now, there is a sixty day comment period at EPA for the public to send a note about their proposed standard. Use this link to write a letter to Lisa Jackson, who heads the Environmental Protection Agency. It is a little effort--for a good cause.
Even the pictures for this Slow Love Life post present an evolution in my thinking about how to approach this issue. I started out: hmm, clean air, I'll show blue sky. Nice. Easy. Those blue sky days are when we are happy to send our children out to play. The problem is, many of these poisons are invisible--the sky is blue, but toxic.
Okay, then, the double rainbow, which my son Theo and I witnessed last summer: A promise at the end of a storm? Hope sent to us from above? I love a miracle as much as the next person. But we can't wait. We have to clean up our mess we have made here on earth.
Then I found the baby in my photo files. I don't know who he is. As I watched him, one summer afternoon, playing on the beach, my heart filled with memories of my own children plashing in the sandy puddles as the tide crept out.
It is all about that child. It is all about our children.