They say politics breed strange bedfellows. Evidently, good ideas breed new allies.
Across the country, burgeoning coalitions in many states have come together in support of something healthy. And no, not just to back the age-old mandate that we should eat our vegetables. This time, “healthy” comes in the form of clean energy.
Historically, proponents of energy efficiency and renewables have often been associated with the environmental movement alone; namely, groups such as the Sierra Club, Audubon and Greenpeace. But as the marked health effects from dirty energy sources have risen, a group of once unlikely partners have joined the movement.
Let’s be specific.
In Massachusetts, a coalition called Mass Power Forward involves over 90 organizations representing: public health professionals, business endorsers, faith leadership, peace and justice organizations, conservation groups, youth organizations, community development associations, academic constituents, regional and local energy advocates, and others. Though the groups have vastly diverse missions, they have the same solutions in mind. Some are concerned with the proposed expansion of natural gas pipelines; some are working to ensure that coal-fired power plants are not destroying the health of their communities; and others are certain it’s time for outdated local nuclear power plants, leaking tritium into groundwater, to go. Despite different vantage points, all coalition members agree that using energy more efficiently, in addition to replacing local dirty energy sources with renewables, is by far the best option.
"The choices we make this year are ones we'll have to live with for decades to come. We can chain ourselves to fracked gas, and have our heating and electric costs go up and down with the price of fuel, sending those dollars out of state, continuing to spew carbon into the air. Or, we can invest in clean energy that has no fuel cost, keeps us on track to reduce climate change and pollution, keeps our energy dollars local, and creates local, full-time, permanent jobs,” says Jane Winn of the Mass Power Forward coalition.
Further south along the east coast is the Maryland Climate Coalition, which formed a few years earlier and, similarly, has broad climate and health goals. It aims to reduce Maryland’s dependence on energy sources such as coal, oil, gas and nuclear and increase the percentage of power generated by solar and wind. Energy Independent Vermont, with a slightly different angle but the same clean energy mission, aims to to address the problem of climate change by putting a price on pollution. Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy is Washington State’s coalition of individuals, groups and businesses dedicated to reducing climate pollution, strengthening the economy, and making sure families have a better future. They’re calling for immediate action to protect people, places and the quality of life in the state. There’s also Clean Power Pennsylvania, the Missouri Clean Energy Coalition, the Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition in Florida, and others we’ve likely missed.
Those familiar with the impacts of coal emissions on asthma, radioactive nuclides on the thyroid, or fracking chemicals in our drinking water, can understand why more than fifty percent of the United States’ fastest-growing jobs are in the field of public health. The strain that pollution puts on our environment is inseparable from the harmful impacts on our health. While the crossover between environmental pollution and human health has always existed, the two fields of study have been separate until somewhat recently. Experts are now recognizing that there’s no difference between them, which is why the field is now referred to as “environmental health”.
Groups such as Mom’s Clean Air Task force, the American Lung Association, Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Health Care Without Harm (the latter two both Climate for Health partners) and others are intensifying their engagement in these types of broad coalitions, for good reason. The problem is big. It’s time to end the segmented myriad of small campaigns and join hands with our new friends.
As Amelia Kaune, a Registered Labor and Delivery nurse who is a part of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy in Washington says, “When we’re unified we can make change. I really believe that.”
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