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Children deserve clean air and a safe climate

A brown cloud hovers over Phoenix. (Arizona DEQ)

A brown cloud hovers over Phoenix. (Arizona DEQ)

During the long summer months as a child growing up in Tijuana, I couldn’t wait to get outside. Summer days meant lounging in parks, biking with friends, and wading through creeks. When I became a mother, I imagined those summers from my own childhood. Summers spent outside.  

That’s not what my children are getting. Here in Phoenix, these months are increasingly spent indoors, sheltering from the heat. But it’s not just the triple-digit temperatures and blistering asphalt that are keeping us inside — it’s also the insidious way that extreme heat interacts with stagnant air to create and trap more ozone pollution. For my daughter, who suffers from wheezing episodes, this dangerous air quality could land her in the hospital.  

Phoenix ranks No. 5 on the American Lung Association’s list of top10 most polluted cities in the United States for ozone — and fossil fuel pollution from cars and trucks is a big part of the problem. This same pollution is also the reason our summer temperatures now regularly hit a scorching 115 degrees — suffocating heat, and all the more so in communities like mine, with little tree cover. 

The price we pay for burning fossil fuels in our cars and trucks — the damage to our health and to our climate — is simply too high. With the numerous and increasingly-affordable zero-emissions technologies on the market, we don’t have to live with this pollution burden. What we need now is for our leaders at the local, state and federal level, to invest in clean transportation solutions that can deliver healthier air quality and a livable future for our young ones.  

Investments in pollution-cutting clean transportation solutions are broadly popular with Arizona voters. From investments in strengthening public transportation access — supported by 64% of Arizona voters — to investments in expanding charging infrastructure for electric vehicles — supported by 52% of Arizona voters — it’s clear that constituents in our state want leaders who will tackle our compounding air quality and climate crises head on. 

Making these investments will also help families cash in the savings that cleaner cars deliver. Electric vehicle drivers benefit from significantly lower operational and maintenance costs. According to Consumer Reports, the average electric vehicle driver saves between $800 to $1,000 dollars annually on fuel costs, and also benefits from maintenance costs that are half that of a gasoline car — savings that add up to around $4,600 over the lifetime of an electric vehicle. These are meaningful savings, especially now, as families recover from this economic downturn.  

Columba Sainz

Columba Sainz

But as important as state investments are, we also know that pollution doesn’t stop at state boundaries. To deliver clearer skies and a livable climate, we need a broad, national campaign to invest in clean transportation solutions across the country. 

That is why my colleagues and I at Moms Clean Air Force and EcoMadres want to see our legislators support an infrastructure plan  and other policies  that take bold action to combat the climate chaos we are seeing, while at the same time creating jobs by repairing our broken infrastructure and expanding the zero-emissions transportation solutions that are key to cleaning up fossil fuel pollution.  

The latest bipartisan infrastructure deal is a step in the right direction, but we need our members of Congress to stand strong. They should pass legislation that is reflective of what is laid out in the American Jobs Plan in order to put our families and our country on the path to climate safety. 

My children are growing up in a world with new climate extremes that I did not face as a child. Climate change threatens my children’s health, and that’s something I can’t stand by and let happen. We parents must fight for a safer future with cleaner air, for the sake of our children. This is a fight we can and must win. 

Columba Sainz is a member of Arizona’s Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission, the state’s nonpartisan sustainability-based citizen advisory body, and a local leader for Eco Madres, a partner organization of Mom’s Clean Air Force. 


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