Cherise Udell, inspiring mom for clean air, defends right to breathe in Utah
Cherise Udell of Utah Moms for Clean Air. Photo: Chris Jordan / Earthjustice
I love my mother with all of my heart. But if for some strange reason I had to choose another, I'd probably go with Cherise Udell.
Cherise is the founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air—a group of hundreds of mothers who "use the power of moms to clean up Utah's dirty air." I had the pleasure of meeting Cherise when she participated in the 50 States United for Healthy Air project, which Earthjustice helped to coordinate. She is a tour de force and a great defender of the right to breathe, but don't take my word for it. Check out this inspiring piece she wrote for the Moms Clean Air Force, cross-posted at Joe Romm's great blog, Climate Progress.
A preview to whet your appetite:
Breathing Salt Lake City's dirty air during a winter inversion is like smoking cigarettes. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment explained that air pollution acted much like involuntary smoking because it had virtually all of the same health consequences of smoking about a quarter pack a day…
The image of my baby with a cigarette dangling from her toothless mouth was enough to move me to action. Utah Moms for Clean Air was born that day.
In the post, Cherise details the many accomplishments she and the mothers of Utah Moms for Clean Air have made since forming in 2007. It's inspiring stuff, and serves as a reminder that people have a tremendous amount of power when they choose to wield it.
Fortunately, Cherise isn't alone. Her fellow Clean Air Ambassadors in the 50 States United for Healthy Air project have similarly inspiring stories to tell, as do countless others across the country. For all of the smokestacks, industry lobbyists, pollutants and other things about which we sometimes banter, it's important to remember that air pollution is really a story with faces and names. Cherise Udell is one. Her young daughters are ages two and three. And the numbers of people impacted by air pollution grow quickly from there when you start counting. It's those numbers that will make the real difference in whether government and dirty industries take the necessary steps to make our air cleaner.
Cherise holds a picture of one of her daughters for the 50 States United for Healthy Air multimedia project. Photo: Chris Jordan/Earthjustice
We often agonize over our children's safety, worrying about crime and abuse and accidents. Yet the way we allow businesses to externalize air pollution onto our communities (virtually giving them licenses to kill) and the way we choose to live our fossil-fuel-dependent lives is permanently damaging our kids' health. We must embrace changes in our own lives as well as insist that our elected officials prioritize citizen health over corporate profits.
We have the power and we have to use it. Spread Cherise's story far and wide. Tell your own story. And demand from the powers that be in Washington, D.C. that we get the clean air we all deserve.