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Although the recent elections signal a return to more inhospitable times for environmental protection in Congress, we are sustained by two constants: the power of the law and the dedication of our supporters.

The law provides leverage for progress even when political winds shift, and our steadfast supporters have shown time and again that they trust in our ability to wield it for positive change, regardless of the prevailing politics.

Clean air just isn't as popular as it should be. Though reducing air pollution saves lives and money, some lawmakers seem hell-bent on denying these benefits to the American public. They seem to believe that nothing should hinder polluters' ability to make a buck, not even the prevalence of asthma, birth defects, heart disease, cancer, and other ailments that results from dirty air emissions.

There is no reason to beat around the bush: Tuesday's election results are a setback in our progress towards a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable planet.

At a time when the world desperately needs leadership from the United States, voters have installed in the House of Representatives those who have vowed to do all they can to obstruct progress in cleaning up dirty coal-burning power plants, reducing health-destroying and climate-disrupting pollution, and protecting wild places and wildlife.

With the national election less than a week hence, we at Earthjustice are asking readers to practice their voting skills in advance—by voting now for our project idea at Free Range's Youtopia Contest.

Like many other groups trying to do life-changing work, Earthjustice is competing for a grant from Youtopia to underwrite a promotional idea in support of our mission. It's a contest to be decided by you and others who cast votes for the idea of their choice. And we're hoping you'll choose ours. Here's the concept:

Some of the worst air polluters have dodged controls for decades, pumping dirty air that makes playing outside a dangerous game for kids across the U.S. Though 2011 brings unprecedented opportunities to clean up these polluters, only public pressure can counteract the polluter lobby's influence. A humorous video can help: in a dodgeball game between kids and pollution, large men dressed as mercury, soot, and other pollutants hurl dodgeballs labeled with diseases (e.g. asthma ) while kids counter with balls marked "health" and "clean air". The message: join the kids' team to ensure dirty industries don't dodge clean air rules again.

Time is short—voting ends at midnight this Sunday—so please visit the Youtopia site now and follow directions. There are more than 150 world-changing ideas, but I think you'll agree with us that a vote for the Earthjustice proposal will go a long way towards supporting our role of using the law to protect the earth.
 

Across the United States—from California's Central Valley to Chicago, Houston and New York—people are breathing polluted air and suffering. Asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, birth defects and even cancer are the prices paid by residents in scores of American communities where polluting facilities operate.

So, imagine breathing in a substance that not only exacerbates but causes known breathing problems such as asthma. You'd want the Environmental Protection Agency to do something about it, right?

Well, they did: in June the EPA reined in emissions of sulfur dioxide—a nasty chemical—from power plants and other sources. These new standards are expected to prevent thousands of asthma attacks and hundreds of emergency room visits every year.

Great, right? Industry doesn't think so.

Water and air in 34 states are being poisoned by the waste of coal-fired power plants—creating major health risks for children and adults—according to a report released today by Earthjustice and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The ground-breaking study connects the contamination occurring at hundreds of coal ash dumps and waste ponds across the country to health threats such as cancer, nerve damage and impairment of a child's ability to write, read and learn.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

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.