This was written by Kelly Nichols, Moms Clean Air Force Illinois Field Manager:
Last week, as my 3 year-old girl “worked” behind me on my old computer, I plugged in my headphones and watched the previously recorded live stream of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s inaugural address. I really wanted to see if the Governor would mention any of the issues that are most important to me — specifically, environmental concerns as they relate to the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and the fix of Illinois’ RPS mandate (Renewable Portfolio Standard).
The Governor spoke excitedly about the prospects for Illinois in terms that are popular with politicians — citing big changes, things being different than before and bipartisan leadership. I was left with a hopeful feeling — waiting for the words, “conservation” or “air quality” to be highlighted by the Governor. They weren’t.
I’d like to say I was surprised, but the fact is, Illinois is facing other big problems, like resolving our enormous budgetary shortfalls. While these are pressing issues, I’m not terribly shocked Governor Rauner didn’t bring climate change up in this 15 minute blip. Well, I’m not shocked, just concerned. Very concerned. It’s obvious to address financial issues, but I would argue that climate change is just as obvious. There are severe effects of climate change happening in Illinois. We have a large amount of children with asthma and other respiratory issues, and weather catastrophes are on the increase throughout the entire Midwest. In the current political climate, issues about climate change are hot button topics that keep coming back again and again.
Governor Rauner has previously mentioned his love for the outdoors; he once planned to get his degree in environmental studies, and has given large donations to various environmental organizations. As governors go, he appears to be more moderate, which makes me think – hope – pray — that he’ll play a bigger role in helping us coordinate with the national Clean Power Plan requirements. It will be interesting to see how Governor Rauner utilizes his new role as governor to support cleaning up Illinois’s dirty power sources.
Leaving out conservation from his comments, Governor Rauner leaves the future generations of Illinois behind. He talks about a brighter future. Part of making that future bright, and making Illinois a place where people don’t just want to live, but want to stay generation after generation, is by ensuring a higher quality of life. This means having legislation in place to protect our children from the harmful health effects of air pollution, and the negative health implications of climate change.
At Moms Clean Air Force, we believe partisan politics should not affect meaningful action on climate change. In Illinois, 13% of children suffer from asthma. That’s an unacceptably large amount of kids! The most serious effects are seen in the most vulnerable communities in and around Chicago and East St. Louis. Air pollution not only drives climate change, but it also contributes to smog, which can trigger asthma trigger, heart attacks, and respiratory illness.
If Governor Rauner’s dream includes making Illinois the kind of state others aspire to become, I think he should do it with the utilization of clean and renewable energy sources. We’ll be watching to see if he can put actions into words because Illinois families need leaders that truly want a “brighter future” — those that will act decisively to curb climate change to protect our children.