This is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez of Illinois:
As a parent are you worried about any specific effects of climate change on your children and the children of your district?
I’m a grandfather now, have been for the last 13 years. I’m definitely worried about the Earth we are leaving for future generations. I have the honor of representing some of the youngest neighborhoods in the city of Chicago. Having sufficient greenspace in a concrete jungle is important to the healthy development of our youth. As we see and feel the effects of climate change across the globe, it’s important to remember that low-income communities and communities of color are the ones paying the highest price. These communities tend to be full of children with little green and recreational spaces. To mitigate the effects of climate change on our children we need to invest in our children and their spaces. Right now, the violence plaguing the city of Chicago is making national news. However, no one mentions that the neighborhoods experiencing these acts of violence have little green space and tend to be food deserts and isolated via public transportation. So even on the micro level – just the city of Chicago – there are connections between the ways we treat the Earth and quality of life we face living on her.
Why is a bipartisan effort so important to you when working on issues of air quality?
This issue affects everyone and everything on this planet. We don’t have Democratic rivers and a Republican atmosphere. (Tweet this) To preserve our planet, we can’t allow the fossil fuel lobby to exert so much influence over Congress anymore, and that requires action by both parties. The oil and coal industry’s short-term economic gain is going to have a lifetime of consequences for mankind. I encourage my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join me at the table so that we can improve air quality and the lives of all Americans and not just those in our respective districts.
What is unique about protecting your district’s resources?
It is important that we not only protect resources in the 4th Congressional District but also invest in them. The water infrastructure in Chicago needs some serious investment. We can create jobs by replacing our aging water infrastructure not only in Chicago but across America. Clean drinking water is a human right. We all deserve it and we all need it to live long and healthy lives.
A branch of the Chicago River runs through the southern part of the district. Investing in the sanitary canal would give thousands water-front access while revitalizing the water’s ecosystem. Investment in the river needs to be equitable, not just in the Northside. There are also multiple highways in the district. These highways plus the industrial corridors (not just in the district, but across the city) are hubs for diesel trucks and therefore, a major source of Chicago’s air pollution. The United States Congress has a responsibility to protect our environment, air and water while holding big-polluters accountable for damaging our natural resources.
Is there anything you’d like to share with Moms Clean Air Force members?
I would like to thank the members of Moms Clean Air Force for the important work that they’re doing. Please know that you’re helping everyone live a better, healthier life. In my experience, you will find many allies among the Latino Members of Congress and in Hispanic Communities across America. There is a deep level of concern for environmental issues in Latino neighborhoods rich and poor alike. You should also know that I’m not just a Congressman you can count on for support, but a Dad for Clean Air, and a Grandfather for a better environment and a better world. Saludos.
Now in his twelfth term, Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez is the senior member of the Illinois delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is an experienced legislator and energetic spokesman on behalf of his constituents in Illinois’ Fourth District in the heart of Chicago, who first elected him to his seat in 1992.
Rep. Gutiérrez is nationally recognized for his tireless leadership championing issues of particular importance to Latino and immigrant communities. Married and both a father and grandfather, Rep. Gutiérrez was born and raised in Chicago to parents who had themselves migrated to Chicago from Puerto Rico in the early 1950s.