Abigail Medina, Contributing Writer
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - Children who suffer from asthma tend to fall sick, miss school days, and fall behind in their studies. They skip outside activities and important opportunities. For many children in our community, growing up near freeways, power plants, railways and industrial sites can mean that they’re at a higher risk of developing asthma and other lung related disease. Cutting our petroleum use in half will result in healthier, happier kids, and that is reason alone. We need our legislators in San Bernardino County to support SB 350 and SB 32, bills that reduce our dependence on damaging fossil fuels and replace them with clean energy.
Growing up, I faced challenges in school, some educational and some environmental. I began my work in education to ensure all children have access to quality education. What I’ve learned along the way is that health has a lot to do with a child getting a good education and being able to take advantage of the opportunities around them. Our students need to be healthy enough to attend school on a regular basis and poor air quality is standing in the way of that. Asthma, which is strongly linked to smog pollution, is the number one reason kids miss school in California. Here in San Bernardino, we can, and must, do better.
If you live in the San Bernardino area you know what reliance on fossil fuels looks like, you can see it. Yellow-orange, grayish, dense smog that sits there for days, you can feel yourself breathing in particles. Some days we can barely see our San Bernardino mountains. As a parent of five, those are the days when I keep my children indoors.
San Bernardino’s working families, especially Latino and African American communities living closer to freeways, power plants, railways and industrial sites are often at a higher risk of developing breathing complications. Some of our families have lived in these neighborhoods for generations, while others cannot afford to live elsewhere. Parents are forced to raise their children in neighborhoods with severe air quality issues and because of this, youth of color our region are two to six times more likely to die due to asthma.
The solution is clear – we need to improve our air quality. I’ve seen firsthand how these dangerous pollutants affect children’s lungs. As a school board member I supported efforts to remove gas tanks with heavy fumes from our school’s neighborhoods. Our district bought air purifiers for schools such as Ramona Alessandro Elementary, but it’s not enough – our kids deserve to play outside.
The good news is that our air has improved due to smart policies that capitalize on our clean energy potential. California’s landmark climate and clean energy law, AB 32, has created billions of dollars in funding that is being invested in communities similar to ours, cutting air pollution, and creating good clean energy jobs. Bike lanes, bus rapid transit, and affordable housing close to public transportation are just some of the projects that could be funded. But we still have a long way to go until we can say our air is safe for our kids. Now is the time to take the next ambitious step to lower our emissions in the Inland Empire, improve our air quality, and help our children stay healthy and in school.
All children in our communities deserve clean air. When we have healthy communities, we have healthy students who can reach their full potential. We need our Assemblymembers to pass SB 350 and SB 32 and to bring in AB 32 dollars and resources to our region. By cutting our ties with fossil fuels and supporting smart bills, they can do what is right for their constituents while investing in our children’s future.
Abigail Medina San Bernardino City Unified School District Board Member
Also on: Inland Empire Community News, http://iecn.com/our-children-deserve-to-breathe-clean-air/