I’m blessed to have the opportunity to lead a major national women’s group, the National Congress of Black Women (NCBW). My personal desire has always been to facilitate the enhancement of the lives and opportunities for African American women, women of color, and their families’ welfare. Since my personal goals coincide so perfectly with the goals of our organization, I consider my role to be a singular opportunity to bring positive change to our communities and to our nation.
My job is to drive awareness of the most pressing issues we face. The long list includes: domestic violence, immigration reform, childhood obesity, criminal justice reform and equal access to education. Atop that list are the challenges posed by carbon pollution and climate change. We live under the threat of an environmental, economical, and public health crisis—and it’s only getting worse. The rest of our challenges mean little if we don’t have a healthy environment in which we can thrive.
Costs to our communities aren’t imaginary. Sixty-eight percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a polluting coal-fired plant. Without escape or refuge from the constant cloud of toxic-waste, African Americans average 350% more emergency room visits than White Americans.
Harms to our children are especially alarming. Living so close to polluting power plants, African American children experience asthma attacks at much higher rates than their white peers. They are two to three times more likely to be hospitalized and/or die from asthma. Adding to the impact of their illness, their mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers (many who are the sole economic providers for their families) miss hours or even days of work. The visit to a pediatrician is costly enough. Affording inhalers or missing work only makes it worse.
Carbon pollution and climate change are real. We can’t ignore them, nor can we allow other issues to subordinate them on our list of essential priorities.
Among the timeliest of options is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan. The plan, finalized by President Obama in August 2015, sets the first federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants and encourages the development of safer, cleaner renewable energy. It’s the most significant action ever taken by the U.S. to cut carbon pollution and combat climate change.
The plan’s life-saving rules will yield great health and climate-related benefits (up to $54 billion annually by 2030). By reducing or cutting carbon pollution by nearly a third by 2030, it will reduce asthma attacks by 90,000 and prevent 300,000 missed days of school and work. Most importantly, the Clean Power Plan will reduce premature deaths by up to 3,600.
President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is lifesaving, and it needs our support against those who value profit over lives. In February, the Supreme Court temporarily paused implementation of the clean air standards. Corporate polluters and their political allies have sued to stop the rules in an attempt to block critical health benefits and the economic benefit of the creation of thousands of associated new jobs.
Those who value the health and well being of American families are not alone. In April 2016, a coalition of businesses, faith groups, elected officials, medical professionals, and environmental and health organizations filed ‘friend of the court’ briefs in support of the Clean Power Plan. They defended the strong legal foundation of the rules and touted the immense economic and public health benefits the Clean Power Plan provides across the nation.
Even with this broad coalition supporting the President’s Clean Power Plan much remains left to do. You can write your elected officials expressing your support of the Clean Power Plan and demand they do likewise.
I’m confident that by working together, we can keep millions of women and children from exposure to harm.