Special to the Tribune-Star
As I sit here transcribing the interviews for this article, I hear a local TV commercial on in the background advertising water safety test kits for homeowners.
The commercial lists the ways the water we consume could be making us sick. This makes me wonder if the basic necessities of life have become unsafe in America.
Growing up, I never remember needing to filter water. Nowadays, every home I go into has a built-in water purification system or a Brita container in the refrigerator. How will future generations come to know water? Two state-wide organizations are working hard to make sure future generations can enjoy the planet we know today.
Our Children’s Trust
Our Children’s Trust is an Oregon-based organization with chapters throughout the United States. While the name sounds like a bank account, the mission of Our Children’s Trust is to protect earth’s atmosphere and natural systems for present and future generations by amplifying the voice of the youngest generation through film and legal action. Jim Poyser, the executive director of Earth Charter Indiana, is the representative for the Indiana chapter.
“For me personally, I am rather an alarmist about climate change. It can be a very dismal experience over five, 10, 15, 20 years and see a world that has become increasingly chaotic when it comes to its weather,” Poyser said.
Fighting climate change with adults through policy and government can paint a dark picture of doom and gloom. In taking a different approach, Poyser now spends his days visiting schools throughout Indiana educating kids about climate change. Poyser feels that working with kids builds a more conscious community, society and world.
“I tell kids the truth, that fossil fuel emissions create a different physics for the atmosphere and that change changes the way the atmosphere behaves. That is why we have more massive rain storms and droughts,” Poyser said.
Action items for kids
While kids do not have the right to vote or have the say to put solar panels on their home or erect a wind turbine in their yard, there are three ways Poyser believes kids can have a big positive impact.
First, they can be conscious of how much power they use and to be sure to turn off the lights when they leave a room, check to see if they have all the right light bulbs, and check if there are any drafts in the house. Secondly, while kids can’t drive, they can encourage their parent(s) to carpool, take mass transit, walk or bike.
Finally, an area kids can have the biggest impact in is how much they waste. They can learn about everything they consume and ways to reduce the waste they produce.
In the end, Poyser says focusing on the kids does so many great things. Mostly, it gets us adults out of our own individual perspectives and spaces. It gets us thinking about our kids and our grandkids and all of the challenges they will be facing due to the decades of treating our environment like an open sewer that we pour the bi-products of our lives down.
Mom’s Clean Air Force
Wendy Bredhold of Evansville became interested in air quality long before she ever became a mother. Bredhold is outraged by the idea that there are days that we are told that the air is not healthy enough for us to go outside and breathe.
“Air should be something that we can take for granted, that we can breathe and not damage our health. We should not have to be concerned about our children developing asthma and respiratory diseases. There shouldn’t be warning days that children with asthma, elderly and active people should stay inside,” Bredhold said.
Instead of just complaining about the problem, Bredhold has been taking action. She is Indiana’s field organizer for Mom’s Clean Air Force, a project of the Environmental Defense Fund. The Moms Clean Air Force campaign, specific to Indiana, is on the issue of mercury pollution and how it affects infants and young children in particular. Because of all the coal-fired power plants in Indiana, all bodies of water in the state (lakes, streams, rivers) are contaminated with mercury, which falls from smokestacks. Pregnant women, nursing women, women that may become pregnant and young children should heed eating many types of fresh fish and seafood from any waterway in Vigo County. Click here for more information: fn.cfs.pur
Bredhold says there is a consortium of utility companies that are suing the EPA to stop them from putting Mercury Air Toxic Standards into effect. MATS was a part of the 1970 Clean Air Act, which has never been enforced. According to a 2010 United States Geological Survey, mercury contamination in water and fish throughout Indiana has routinely exceeded levels recommended to protect people and wildlife. About one in eight fish samples tested statewide had mercury that exceeded the recommended safety limit for human consumption. The causes include mercury in the rain and mercury going down the drain.
“Climate supersedes every other issue for me because I want my daughter to grow up on the same planet that I grew up on,” Bredhold said. “I feel that it is my duty to try and fight for her future, since I brought her here. I don’t want to sit back and say ‘ya know there is nothing we can do about it’ I think that we should try and preserve it and pass it on as is to our children.”
Bredhold’s job is to put pressure on coal power plants to get them to drop their suit against the EPA. I asked Bredhold if she is intimidated about going up against big money. With her boxing gloves held eye level, Bredhold is unlikely to back down, since she has the support of a national organization. She says she feels more empowered than before Mom’s Clean Air Force invested in Indiana. If Bredhold wins the fight, it could mean millions of dollars will need to be spent to make the power plants put out purer emissions. The cost could then get passed down to consumers. I asked her if she would be willing to hold that weight of adding that additional cost to every homeowner, her answer was simply yes.
“We are already paying the cost of the carbon economy just in completely different ways. We are paying with our health, we are paying with our children’s future. I would rather pay ten to fifteen extra dollars a month,” she said.
Bredhold is seeking Indiana moms who are willing to go to the EPA listening session on new Carbon Pollution Standards in Chicago on Friday. For more information contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jane Santucci is an environmental freelance writer for the Tribune-Star. Santucci is a proud volunteer with TREES Inc. and Our Green Valley. She also sits on the Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries Board of Directors. Share your environmental stories and tips with her at JaneSantucci@yourgreenvalley.com.