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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.

The red flag was flying two weeks ago in the California city of Arvin—a warning to residents of the nation's smoggiest city to stay indoors away from the choking air. And that's just where many residents were during a public hearing by the Environmental Protection Agency into the area's smog conditions.

Even the EPA Region 9 administrator was there, listening intently to a stream of complaints about breathing conditions, when, suddenly, a little girl suffered an asthma attack and was rushed away for treatment.

I spent a few days in Houston attending an (insert irony here) air pollution hearing in June. After only a few days, I felt run-down, my eyes burning and my breathing labored. I believe my symptoms were caused by breathing in Houston's heavily polluted air.

About 30 years ago, after some prodding from environmental groups, Jimmy Carter had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House. He gave a ringing speech at the time, hoping that this gesture would help build a solar revolution. He established a Solar Energy Research Institute and put Denis Hayes, the director of the first and subsequent Earth Days in charge.

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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.