Opinion: Clean air isn’t a partisan question

by Celia Vigil | Columnist

A clean environment is inextricably linked to our health. 

Climate change’s extensive media coverage has forced the issue to the forefront of national conversations, but remains tainted by partisan affiliations and polarization. With climate change being championed by many Democratic politicians, and deniers being overwhelmingly Republican, it’s become yet another issue feeding the red-blue divide. However, if there is one issue that does not need to be aligned with partisan ideology, one cause that should unite us, it is the environment.

Some have read the scientific conclusions on climate change and are not persuaded that there is sufficient evidence to show the earth is warming because of human cause; others wholly champion the data and fight with urgency. Many simply stand in the middle, unsure or skeptical. 

Regardless of political affiliation or knowledge of advanced scientific feedback loops, there are certain universal realities we are all faced with concerning the environment. Air quality in the United States is currently on the decline again after years of past improvement, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. What reason is there to fight against clean air? Alternatively, there is every incentive to fight for it. It is undeniable that there are serious health concerns. The World Health Organization reports that an estimated 3.7 million premature deaths across the world may have been caused by air pollution in 2012. 

In terms of water, coal ash pollutants with serious risks to human health are at increasingly unsafe levels in groundwater throughout many midwestern and eastern states according to The Environmental Integrity Project. Deeply concerning is that, while the effects of microplastics are still being studied, oceanography research from the North Pacific Foundation indicates that the great Pacific garbage patch has grown exponentially since the 1970s. In the face of these issues, it’s crucial that party lines and minor disagreements do not prevent us from acting. 

One may contend that environmental degradation and climate change are different—which is true—but the underlying concerns of both are the same: pollution is imminent and urgent, with our very health at stake. Some hold onto the fact that it doesn’t seem to be getting any warmer in their geographical location, but air and water pollution rates remain documented and horrifying, with visible impact for many in the United States. A doomsday scenario is not necessary to mobilize—the degradation is astounding and sufficient for us all to take action. 

If there’s one issue that we all have a stake in that is going to require each and every one of us to work toward solving, it’s this. Don’t wait to be persuaded or dissuaded of rising temperatures: stand now. Make no mistake—if you breathe, drink water, and rely on Earth for your survival, this is of your urgent concern.