Nearly one-in-six people in the United States live in an area with unhealthful short-term levels of particle pollution. One in six. I was one of those one in six, growing up with moderate to severe asthma. I was hospitalized several times. My health was poor throughout my childhood and didn’t really show full significant improvement until after college.
It’s something I learned to deal with, not to focus on. Yet the truth is, I grew up in a part of the country with severe pollution. In our drive for cheap energy, society paid a social cost.
Luckily I grew up in a part of the world and during a time in history when medical advances kept pace with asthma, in my case just barely. My father also had asthma, as did his father before him. If I had grown up during my father’s time, I likely wouldn’t be here today. If I grew up in another part of the world I know I wouldn’t be here today.
But how many children and young adults in this country and around the world were not and are not so lucky? Our drive for growth often ignores the human cost of our actions. It isn’t until pollution becomes severe enough that we begin to change. Will we wake up before it’s too late for far too many vulnerable people across the world? It’s a sick twist of fate that when it comes to climate change, those who are least responsible and those who are least able to deal with the consequences of changing and shortened (or nonexistent) crop seasons will bear the greatest cost.
One-in-six Americans are at risk from unhealthy air. It just makes sense to renew our investments in renewable energy. Is that energy perfect? No. But the technology is improving, and countries like China and Germany are making massive investments. We shouldn’t be left behind, because it will require innovation and investment to get to energy sources that are cleaner. That’s why I support the wind tax credit. When it comes to energy there are no perfect solutions, but there are good investments.
In addition to extending the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit, we need to continue our investment in groups like ARPA-E. In my view we also need a price on carbon, because we don’t know the full cost of climate change. A portion of revenues from that price should be set aside to deal with worsening storms like Sandy and beyond normal weather events in the U.S.
We need an All-American policy to deal with our energy challenges, one that doesn’t sacrifice our friends and neighbors who are still at risk from local pollution. We can lead and we need to lead.
Alexei N. Laushkin is Senior Director of Communications and Editor of Creation Care Magazine at Evangelical Environmental Network.
Photo: Wind turbine farm, ©