Clean Air Is Not a Privilege, It’s A Right

BY ON June 5, 2012

Girl smelling a flower in a field

It’s so close to the end of the school year and I am late in planning my kid’s summer. I am prompted to do this because I recently overheard my son lamenting to a friend that his summer is yet unplanned, and he fears that his favorite basketball camp will fill-up before his mother gets around to it. So I respond to his expectations. But as I peruse camp brochures and summer activity options, and as I contemplate our family vacation, I am struck at how fortunate my kids are, and how much we, as a family, take for granted. My kids fully expect a summer of enrichment and special activities, all of which are far from cost-free.

And this is not the first time I have worried about how deeply entrenched my children are in their privilege. I am certain it won’t be the last. This is a bed that we made for ourselves. Even in our leanest years, my children (like many kids in the U.S.) enjoyed luxuries that are not shared by other children around the world. Not even the simple things, like Internet access, hot and cold running water, a nutritiously full refrigerator, laundered clothes, or a warm bed at night are within some children’s reach.

And my children’s assumptions about vacations, birthday celebrations and Christmas bonanzas are not far behind. Parents must find (and then strike) some kind of balance between reasonable expectations, awareness and gratitude, so that our children have some notion of values, responsibility and reality as they enter adulthood. This balance is not always easy to achieve or  maintain. If our kids are knee deep in privilege, the least we can do is make them aware of their good luck and fortune, and also the responsibilities to the world that come with some of their more exclusive privileges. Somehow, we want them to understand that all of the gifts of their birth (and their parent’s hard work) are not to be taken for granted.

There are, however, important privileges that children should be able to take for granted. And clean air is one of them. The invisibility of the air we breathe (for the most part) allows us to forget about it. We forget how reliant we are on clean air for our health. Unless you suffer from a respiratory illness, you have the luxury of not spending a moment’s thought on whether or not the air you breath is clean and wholesome. This is what makes the fight for clean air so important.

We must hold our representatives in Congress responsible for their actions (or inactions) at this crucial time when the Mercury and Air Toxics Rules and Standards are under attack. Decades in the making and so close to enforcement, we cannot allow the likes of Senator Inhofe and his Congressional Review Act to undermine these important measures. Our kids deserve the luxury of clean air and an assurance that we are vigilantly protecting their future. I call clean air a “luxury” because given the current state of things, clean air feels more like a privilege. But the truth is, clean air is a RIGHT of every single child, which is why the clean air standards are so worth fighting for.

Photo: Now Child


TOPICS: African-American Community, Mercury Poisoning, Motherhood, Pollution