Against a hazy sky smoke rises from the factories. After an intense rainfall that caused rivers to overrun their banks, streets and homes are still flooded. Children play in an abandoned lot near a coal fired plant and political signs dot yards across the country. These are the scenes that play out in every town, city, and state. This year, voters will elect the President, the House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, as well as a number of governors and state legislators. By extension, voters will also determine the kind of world we live in. Climate change, pollution, and environmental justice are only some of the challenges our planet faces and how we meet those challenges has the potential to affect many generations to come.
The Center for Disease Control states that climate change is projected to harm human health by increasing ground level ozone and particulate matter. Higher temperatures affect the formation of ground level ozone, which is associated with diminished lung function, increased hospital visits, asthma, and premature deaths. Particulate matter is affected by wildfires and air stagnation. Heat waves are associated with heat stroke, cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular diseases. The CDC also projects that heavy flooding will increase nationwide, which can result in elevated risks in waterborne diseases, mold, and reduced indoor air quality.
In addition, the health risks associated with pollution and toxic waste facilities disproportionately affect low income people and minority people. The National Resources Defense Council September 2019 cites a study by the NAACP that 2/3 of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal fired plant. They also cite a study by the EPA that 70% of superfund sites are located near low income housing.
These are complex issues and they will not be solved in four or eight years. However, incoming elected officials will be deciding on many policies regarding clean energy, pollution controls, and fair housing, which will impact people across the country and the globe for many years to come. Voting is our power to decide the kind of world we want to live in and voting matters. Do not forget to bring your ballot to your town clerk or vote on November 3.