On July 6, the New York Times ran a story about Lisa P. Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator who is in the unenviable position of taking heat from everyone on the environmental spectrum. She is a negative point of reference for elected representatives—as they hope to score points with fearful constituencies who have been fed a steady diet of disinformation about the regulation of toxic pollutants and how it will negatively impact the economy. Industries that have been dragging their feet on cleaning up their act are among her most vocal foes. Despite the fact that organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Lung Association are continually pointing to the health benefits Americans will gain from the new strictures put in place, the naysayers aren’t buying it. Even science and statistics don’t help when critics are determined to insist they are bogus.
Unpopular issues have never been a magnet for winning friends and admirers. Ironically, one person Jackson has received support from is William K. Reilly, who was the head of the E.P.A. under George H.W. Bush. During his tenure he worked aggressively to revise the Clean Air Act of 1970. Referencing the E.P.A Reilly said, “It’s not an agency that ever make friends for a president.”
Jackson’s background includes graduating from Tulane University’s School of Chemical Engineering summa cum laude, before she went on to earn her Masters from Princeton. She is the mother of two sons, including one who has asthma. She is acutely aware that African-American and Hispanic communities are at a greater risk for the disease. This topic was discussed in a Moms Clean Air Force Twitter Chat about African-American Asthma Rates and What Mothers Can Do About It.
Jackson also gets the need to contextualize how economically disadvantaged communities bear the brunt of toxins from factories sited in their communities. At a January 2010 conference on environmental justice she stated:
“We can talk about health care. But we also have to talk about how the poor—who get sick more often because they live in neighborhoods where the air and water are polluted—are the same people who go to the emergency room for treatment. That drives up health care costs for everyone. It hurts the local and the national economy.”
With almost every current conversation being framed from a partisan political perspective, Jackson has pledged that she will hold firm on advocating for the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives will be saved from the new legislation.
Moms Clean Air Force is calling on those who support a healthy environment to step up to the plate and get involved. There will be a MCAF Twitter Chat: Finding Time for Activism on Wednesday, July 13 at 9 p.m. EST. Register here
and use the hashtag #MCAF.
Lisa Jackson can’t do it alone.
Photo Courtesy of the E.P.A.