This is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky:
What is unique about protecting your district’s resources?
The 9th District has miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan as well as wetlands around the Des Plaines River. Our air is affected by pollution from Chicago area traffic, industry, and planes flying in and out of O’Hare Airport can affect the air quality in many neighborhoods.
My constituents have a strong commitment to protecting public health and the environment. We have innovators working to promote renewable energy and reduce waste in manufacturing. We have local groups committed to cleaning up our neighborhoods and providing green spaces for the community to enjoy. As their representative and a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I have been fighting to protect our environment and improve public health by addressing the global threat of climate change and reducing the presence of pollutants in our air and water. Responding to those challenges is critical to the quality of life in our area.
As a parent are you worried about any specific effects of climate change on your children and the children of your district?
I am a parent and a grandparent, so I definitely think about the future of my children and grandchildren as I fight for meaningful action to address climate change. I’m especially concerned about the effect on health. This summer, we have seen the spread of Zika. As the climate changes, we could see more diseases spread into new areas. We could also see dramatic impacts on our food supply as hotter temperatures make it harder to grow today’s crops. If food costs increase, I worry that more families in my district will suffer from food insecurity.
On a separate note, climate change can cause severe weather patterns. Many neighborhoods in my district are already at risk of flooding. More intense fluctuations in precipitation could cause major damage. Climate change will also lead to a more unstable world as conflicts over resources increase and people are displaced. This is not the future I want to leave for my grandchildren or any of the kids growing up in my district.
Why is a bipartisan effort so important to you when working on issues of air quality?
President Obama has taken important steps to address climate change, reducing emissions from power plants, increasing the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles, and reaching the landmark Paris climate agreement. However, we need Congress to act to make the necessary investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. That usually takes some bipartisan cooperation.
Clean air should not be a partisan issue. Both Democrats and Republicans need to breathe. I think there is actually a lot of shared concern for air quality. That gets obscured when powerful interests such as the fossil fuel industry seek to influence the debate in Congress. The individual voices of community members, including those outside of the traditional environmental movement, are a powerful counterbalance to industry pressure. I hope that bipartisan efforts on the ground will ultimately translate to bipartisan support on the Hill for the policy changes and investments we need to improve air quality and protect our planet.
Is there anything you’d like to share that is important for Moms Clean Air Force members to know?
I always appreciate meeting with members of Moms Clean Air Force, and I believe your advocacy as parents concerned for your children’s future is critical. I look forward to working with you further to ensure clean air for future generations.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky has been a lifelong consumer advocate and a champion for what she sees as the disappearing middle class. From her days as a young housewife who led the campaign to put expiration dates on food products to the 2008 passage of legislation she helped write making children’s products and toys safe, Jan has worked to make life better for working and middle class Americans. Jan was elected to represent Illinois’ 9th Congressional District in 1998, after serving for eight years in the Illinois General Assembly. She is in her ninth term, serving in the House Democratic leadership as a Chief Deputy Whip and as a member of the Steering and Policy Committee. She is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, where she is the Ranking Democrat on the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee. For decades, Jan identified her top priority as winning affordable, quality health care for all Americans. Jan lives in Evanston, Illinois with her husband Robert Creamer and their golden retrievers Franklin and Eleanor (Frankie and Ellie for short). She has three marvelous children, Ian, Mary, and step-daughter Lauren, and six exceptional grandchildren – Isabel, Eve, Lucy, William, Aidan and Alice. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 1965 with a B.S. in Elementary Education.