Editor's Note: The following is testimony delivered by Alycia Ashburn, Creation Care Campaign Director for Sojourners, to the Environmental Protection Agency's New Source Pollution Standards for Carbon Pollution Hearing on May 24 in Washington, D.C.
My presence and testimony here today – in support of the EPA’s New Source Standards for Carbon Pollution – is as much a religious and personal act as it is a professional one.
While I am here wearing my “work hat” – as director of the creation care campaign at Sojourners (one of the nation’s largest network of Christians committed to social justice) - I wear my many other hats at the same time: U.S. citizen, Christian, congregation member, educator/trainer for Lutherans Restoring Creation, biologist, wife, daughter, runner, National Parks lover, and last but certainly not least, especially in this context: asthma sufferer.
I wasn't born with asthma. In fact, one could argue that it was - at least in part - an occupational hazard that led to it. When my love of God’s creation led me to graduate school, I spent many hours, days and months in plots of trees fumigated with ozone and carbon dioxide (studying insects living in those trees and the impact of air pollution on their communities). Even though I wore a breathing mask as much as possible, I still developed asthma. I know – it’s ironic. My study of air pollution led to my own personal health battle with it.
Ironic for me, maybe, because I chose my field of study; but not ironic for so many others in the U.S.
Upon publicizing this EPA rule and urging Sojourners’ members to submit comments via our website, more than 3,300 people of faith have responded. Some of them have shared their very personal, ongoing battles with air pollution.
Here are just a handful of examples:
From Thomas in Tulsa, OK: "As a chronic asthmatic, clean air is not just a nice thing to have —it's a matter of life and death.”
From Calvin in Norman, OK: “When I lived in Conneaut, Ohio, and Ponca City, Okla., power plants would release their pollutants into the air after midnight. It made my wife and oldest son so sick we had to move from both places on doctor's orders. That should not be allowed. Please put our and the earth's health as top priority."
From Michael in West Hartford, Conn.: “I am a working family physician and see the effects of pollution on a daily basis. I wish my job were easier — please help make it so."
From Sandra in Mount Joy, Pa.: "I am supporting this new rule from the EPA, because breathing clean air shouldn't be a "choice" or a talking point, because it is essential to our health! What kind of country would hurt its own citizens just so polluters can have their way? It's unconscionable and also immoral. Clean air AND clean water shouldn't be a privilege; it's a right of every American, and every human being."
These are the folks who have Internet access and enough time to write in and share their stories. Whose stories are we not hearing? How about those who don’t have access to health care?
I have great health insurance and access to specialists and affordable medication. But so many do not.
Let me share a couple more voices:
From Dr. Marlene in Worthington, Ohio: “We can't sacrifice public health to cheap energy! And what is ‘cheap?!’ For all the people in our country — children, adults, old persons, who have trouble breathing. … My religion teaches our duty to respect and love our environment as God's creation for sustaining our lives. It is ungodly to contaminate, and it is also bad environmental policy to sacrifice the breath of life to the greed of certain economic-driven interests. Stop the pollution, please.”
From Charlotte in Auburn, Ala.: "I am a Christian who is a scientist by profession. As a physical chemist by training, I spent a teaching career of more than thirty years trying to teach students not only the laws by which the natural world operates but the necessity of our being good stewards of the only [planet] ever likely to be available for human habitation. (Lots of planets out there, but nature has this speed limit, you know.) I support the efforts of the EPA to maintain the environment of the home God has given us by maintaining the quality of land, water, and air necessary for our survival and that of our fellow-species on the earth."
These folks could not be here today, but I thought their voices should be heard as they represent so many others. I have my own hats – but there are so many more. (And you can read more from them at www.sojo.net!) Thank you.
Alycia Ashburn is the Director of the Creation Care Campaign at Sojourners.