A Handwritten Letter to the EPA About Mercury and Toxic Emissions Is Gold

BY ON August 1, 2011

Recently, I participated in a live blog radio conversation with fellow members of the Moms Clean Air Force, a group of bloggers helping promote new clean air standards. One of our goals all along has been to get our readers to write letters to the EPA in support of a new mercury and air toxics standards rule.

I have learned so much on this journey, including that our air has mercury — ! – and the importance of getting hand-written letters to the EPA. It makes sense to me that this is complimentary to online action as not everyone has access to the Internet and there are so many on-the-ground groups that could be tapped for letters, including the parent-teacher associations at schools, churches, community centers, book clubs, and even setting up tables in front of the big box retail stores like Target. We can’t dismiss the importance of speaking about this issue to our co-workers and even enlisting the help of complimentary businesses.

I recently dipped my toe in this approach with good effect. Seeing that my church, the Roman Catholic Church, endorsed the new mercury and air toxics rule, I sent an e-mail to the social justice committee at my church in Oakland, California, to see if they would pass around my blog post on the new rules. They did more than that.

The wonderful head of the social justice committee made flyers about the new rules that included a link to the Moms Clean Air Force action page. She set up a table at church with the Bishops’ letter endorsing the rules, information about the proposed rules, and self-addressed index cards with the necessary docket numbers (#EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0044 and #EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0234). Altogether, we mailed out 30 postcards to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson with personal notes like these:

“As a father of two young children in an urban environment, I am very concerned with the effects of airborne pollution on their development. Please consider the long-term benefits of the passage of the Clean Air Toxic Mercury legislation. Thank you! Danny.”

“Thank you, thank you for proposing the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards! Most of us feel so powerless about emissions from plants. My son — a veteran — recently became ill, I believe triggered somewhat by nearby oil company emissions. The entire neighborhood feels dirty and unhealthy. Often we see such emissions and cannot do anything. Judy, Oakland”

“Please know that I stand with you in support of the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. As one who has children and expects to have grandchildren, I want to create a world that is beautiful, abundant and healthy for my own family as well as for the families of our world — since we are all really ONE family.”

My “work” in this initiative was limited to e-mailing my church and making an announcement at mass. While the church was willing to mail out the postcards, I offered as a “thank you” for all the work it had done to protect our families from mercury emissions and air pollution. I am convinced that this approach can be easily replicated by simply e-mailing our on-the-ground communities whether it be the head of the PTA or school principal, our churches or book clubs. The hardest part is taking that first step, which is to ask.

TOPICS: Activism, Mercury Poisoning, Politics, Pollution, Religion