Seeing my nephew suffer through cancer broke my heart but activated me to help educate and empower my community.
Last year, my 6-year-old nephew was diagnosed with cancer. He lives fewer than two miles from an electric power plant. This is when clean air quality became a personal issue for me here in Hawaii. Seeing my nephew suffer through cancer broke my heart but activated me to help educate and empower my community to learn of these issues so we can make our own choices in what we consume.
Since childhood, I always was concerned about our natural resources, as well as air and ocean quality issues. I was taught through my elders and saw for myself how human beings were destroying our sacred places and natural resources. I was also taught to stand up to protect our precious resources for future generations. Living on an island, we have had to learn how to sustain ourselves through cultivation of crops and fishing/fish farming practices like the early Hawaiians taught us. If we continue to pollute the earth and sea, we destroy ourselves.
My community of Waianae is carrying a very heavy burden because of poor air quality, and native Hawaiians are affected the most. We absorb 50 percent of the state's air pollution and toxics and we have the highest rates of asthma.
I believe most of the air pollution within our community comes primarily from background dust, vog (volcanic smog), and traffic detritus. Of the three, the only one easily addressed by government would be the air pollution caused by traffic within a community. That translates to vehicles which either burn cleaner fuel or an alternative non-petroleum based fuel.
Unfortunately, this effort would take a long time to implement. For many in our lower income communities, vehicles are kept for many years on the roads. To reduce the time frame to implement increasing vehicles with cleaner burning fuels, perhaps incentives could be given for turning in a higher polluting vehicle for the purchase of a lower air polluting vehicle. And don't forget the large trucks that are major carriers of large loads. While diesel may be more economical, these trucks are significant contributors to the problem.