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50 States United, Redux

With some members of Congress doing less to protect the health and welfare of their constituents and more for the interests of industry, it’s easy for us ordinary folks to get disillusioned and throw in the towel. But then we turn towards the faces of our children, neighbors, parents and friends struggling with asthma from industrial pollution and tail pipe emissions. We see the lakes and rivers we swam and fished in as kids decimated and our drinking water supplies poisoned by poorly regulated and inadequately maintained coal ash disposal sites. Despite the logjam in Congress, we know, disillusioned or not, that we must insist that Congress stop turning a deaf ear to us and make industry accountable.

This was the message that the Clean Air Ambassadors of 50 States United for Healthy Air brought to Washington, D.C. in May. It also comes through in a new series of stories on Pacifica Radio’s national program, Sprouts: Radio from the Grassroots. Airing on Pacifica stations across the country over the next few weeks and on iTunes via greenpeaceradio.org, the program, hosted by Greenpeace’s Kert Davies, features four 50 States Ambassadors:

Vickie Simmons
of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians from Moapa, NV

Clean Air Ambassador Vickie Simmons.

Brian Urbaszewski
with the Respiratory Health Association from Chicago, IL

Clean Air Ambassador Brian Urbaszewski.

Sarah McCoin
from Kingston, TN, the home of the 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority spill

Clean Air Ambassador Sarah McCoin.

Barbara Evans
from the Black Belt of Alabama, the resting place
for over half of the mercury and arsenic laden waste from the TVA spill

Clean Air Ambassador Barbara Evans.

Each share brief but resounding words about their individual struggles to fight for clean air in their communities. They talk about meeting with their representatives, the administration and most importantly their fellow Ambassadors who joined them in the battle for our health.

The show also includes a provocative discussion with Robert Gardner, Greenpeace’s Climate and Energy Campaigner and yours truly about the three issues that 50 States United focused on, as well as Greenpeace’s intrepid and extremely effective campaign against Duke Energy, the largest electric power holding company in the United States. Congress hears from lobbyists and lawyers all the time, but it’s the voices of those on the ground and their stories of bad air and how they and their communities are impacted that are making the real difference. Even the Ambassadors agreed that the true power of the event and, even a bit of a reward for their years of struggle, was not just in being heard, but meeting and sharing with others facing similar battles to theirs, learning that no matter how fatiguing the fight, how dispiriting the setbacks, and how few and far between the wins, they are not alone.

And that’s a win, in and of itself.

Make sure to check your local Pacifica radio stations for dates and times of broadcasts or download the iTunes podcast at greenpeaceradio.org.

And don't miss more of Vickie Simmons’ story in the film, An Ill Wind, produced by Earthjustice, detailing her tribe’s past and continuing struggles with the Reid Gardner Plant in Moapa, NV:

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.