Nicole Cairns, Online Deputy Director, Power Shift, Washington, DC
Guest post from Becca Oden, Volunteer, Ohio Student Environmental Coalition
The standard piece of poster board clenched between my mitten-covered hands communicated our message to Representative Boehner: “Protect Our Clean Air". A commonly dismissed platitude from environmental groups, this phrase was displayed in direct response to the proposed budget supported by Rep. Boehner and his office. This budget will cut funding for the EPA and other federally funded programs.
The EPA protects not just the environment by monitoring carbon emissions and toxic waste dumping but also protects individuals from negative health effects associated with smog. Asthma rates for Ohioans are far above the goals of the 2010 Healthy People Goals for Asthma, according to the Ohio Asthma Coalition. Asthma is aggravated and triggered by pollutants, especially in children, and lack of regulation by the EPA could result in the rise of this chronic illness in our communities. This is only one potential consequence from this proposed budget cut.
As nine of us filed into Rep. Boehner’s office to discuss our grievances, a young field representative eager to discuss our concerns welcomed us. Nick opened his black notebook and jotted down our various platforms: stop subsidies to large oil and coal companies; protect us, and our children, from the damaging effects of dirty fuel sources; commit to shifting power sources in the state and the country. Perhaps it is my naïve faith in democracy and politicians, but when we left that room I felt that this rally was a success. Not only had our presence gathered attention from media and dozens of residents driving by our protest, we helped create space for a necessary conversation about our future with those who have the power to shape it.
Among the contents of my satchel is a small, purple inhaler. I use this inhaler almost twice a week. I often have problems breathing when I participate in sports or during humid weather. The presence of my asthma inhaler is a constant reminder of the uphill battle in which I should be engaged. Aware that I am affected by these current pieces of legislation that choose to support or abandon policies and energy sources that protect the health of individuals, I can do nothing but participate and refuse to be ignored. Monday was a great start to the kind of communication and resistance that can make this shift possible. One day, maybe none of our children will open their purses or satchels and see such an inhaler. Maybe because people our age-now decided to stand up and demand that those creating policy to “Protect our Clean Air".