The Hill: Attacks on EPA are attacks on health, safety

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Written by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All

For me, clean air isn’t an abstract concept. I grew up in a polluted town and struggled with childhood asthma. I know what it means to be forced to breathe dirty air.

That’s why it’s so important to me that the Environmental Protection Agency is able to do its job and protect Americans from air pollution—including carbon from power plants.

Coal-fired power plants pump out toxic pollution, with serious health consequences: An estimated 12,000 emergency room visits for asthma, 20,000 heart attacks, and 13,000 premature deaths are linked to America’s dirty, outdated coal plants. They don’t just cost lives, they cost dollars: our country loses nearly $100 billion a year to these preventable health problems…

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BET: Commentary: How Young People Are Rallying for Climate Action and Justice

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Written by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All

HBCU students gathered at Powershift 2013 to talk solutions to climate change.

It’s been said that the movement of this generation is the fight against climate change. And there is no better evidence of that than Powershift—an energetic gathering of more than 6,000 students and activists from around the country with a vision of a healthier planet and a clean energy economy.

This year, students and activists of color played a huge role. More than 100 HBCU students went to Pittsburgh for the event, and added their voices to the chorus calling for solutions to climate change. They were joined by activists from around the country—including a number of Green For All Fellows—who are working in local communities to promote sustainability, prosperity, and resilience.

It wasn’t just powerful. It was also fun. A panel titled, “Green is the New Everything” addressed the power of music and arts to engage people in movements for social change. Among those sharing ideas about how musicians and artists can drive positive solutions were Green For All Fellows Tem BlessedAshEl Eldridge, andIetef Vita. They joined Markese Bryant, founder of Fight For Light, an organization that leverages the creative power of student leaders to address sustainability issues on their campuses and in surrounding communities.

But it doesn’t stop there. Throughout the decades, much of the successful gains we’ve made toward creating a better world have been driven by faith. At a panel on EcoTheology, Green For All Fellow Ambrose Carroll joined others in discussing how religion and spirituality can contribute to a successful climate movement, and promote good stewardship of the earth.

We also heard from on-the-ground heroes who work block by block to build stronger communities and a better world. Keynote speaker Luis Perales, a Green For All Fellow, spoke about his innovative work in Tucson to help cultivate local community leaders for a more sustainable and just planet.

Meanwhile, at a panel on Green Economy Careers, Green For All Fellows Tanya FieldsNatasha Soto, andElizabeth Reynoso spoke about the problem of high unemployment among recent college grads, and how young people can make the most of opportunities in clean energy and other sustainable industries.

Finally, Shamar Bibbins, Green For All’s Director of National Partnerships, moderated a panel titled “From Your House to the White House.” The panel included speakers from NAACP, The Sierra Club, and a former senior policy adviser in the Obama administration, who focused on the Climate Action Plan that President Obama rolled out earlier this year—and what we can do to ensure that the plan addresses the needs of folks who are on the front lines.

This is important, because as our leaders take steps to combat climate change, we need to make sure they also address the unique vulnerabilities of communities of color and low-income Americans.

We know that when it comes to disasters, low-income communities and people of color are hit first and worst. Just look at what happened with Katrina—when a big storm strikes, folks with the fewest resources have a harder time preparing, escaping, and recovering. Meanwhile, communities of color tend to be located closer to power plants and other polluting facilities, putting them at higher risk for asthma and other preventable disease.

We need our leaders to address this disproportionate vulnerability—and they won’t do it unless we ask them to. Powershift is an unparalleled opportunity to do just that.

Visit Powershift for more information about how to get involved.

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Daily Kos: The Hunger Games: Let’s Stop Shaming the Poor and Start Solving the Problem

flagman.pngWritten by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All

Last year, after having a baby, I moved back to the town where I grew up—a poor, polluted part of the Bay Area. One of the most striking things about coming home has been the experience of living in a place where access to wholesome food and healthy lifestyle choices is severely limited. That would be bad enough on its own. But now, to add insult to injury, our leaders in Washington, D.C. are kicking low-income folks while they’re down.

When the House voted to slash food stamp benefits (now known as SNAP) by $40 billion last month, there was no mistaking their tone: Americans who are hungry should be ashamed.

Last year, after having a baby, I moved back to the town where I grew up—a poor, polluted part of the Bay Area. One of the most striking things about coming home has been the experience of living in a place where access to wholesome food and healthy lifestyle choices is severely limited. That would be bad enough on its own. But now, to add insult to injury, our leaders in Washington, D.C. are kicking low-income folks while they’re down.

When the House voted to slash food stamp benefits (now known as SNAP) by $40 billion last month, there was no mistaking their tone: Americans who are hungry should be ashamed.

There has been an alarming increase in the number of Americans who rely on food stamps—it jumped from 26 million in 2007 to 48 million today. That should be a red flag—not that people are taking advantage of the system, as conservatives seem to think—but that something’s very wrong with our economy. After all, most of those receiving food stamps are children and the elderly. And it’s not like they’re feasting—the average benefit in 2012 worked out to $4.45 a day.

The assault on food stamps would be appalling enough on its own. But the truth is, it’s just the latest in a series of escalating attacks on the most vulnerable among us. From the crusade against the Affordable Healthcare Act and Medicare to efforts to shrink Social Security, what we’re seeing in Congress these days looks a lot like a war on the poor.

Even their attacks on solutions to climate change and pollution hit low-income folks hard. With crops under increasing threat from drought and disasters, we’re already seeing a spike in food prices. And the more economically stressed our communities are, the more trouble they have preparing, surviving, and recovering from severe weather and storms. Just look at what happened with Katrina.

We’re supposed to have recovered from the Great Recession, but when I look around my hometown, I don’t see things getting easier. For most of us, they’re not. It’s really just the wealthiest who have reaped the benefits of recovery—the top one percent took home more than half our country’s entire income last year. As they’ve ridden the wave of bailouts back to the top, they haven’t turned their backs on the poor; they’ve turned their cannons on them. As though they could defend the ground they’ve gained by humiliating those who have the least.

A recent Washington Post-Miller Center Poll shows a disturbing spike in economic insecurity among Americans. Two-thirds of those polled say they worry about covering their family’s basic living expenses—compared with less than half of respondents four decade ago. More than six out of ten are worried about losing their jobs—a greater number than were worried in 1975, at the tail end of a harsh recession.

At a time like this, when so many people are struggling to get by, you’d think our leaders in Congress would be doing everything possible to help. Instead, they’re attempting to lay shame on those in need—proposing mandatory drug testing for food stamp recipients and accusing them of laziness—despite the fact that most of those who benefit are children.  It’s not just mean spirited. It’s shortsighted. And it doesn’t reflect the values that most of us share.

Most of the people I know wouldn’t hesitate to help a neighbor in need. I’m deeply inspired by the local leaders I see working to fight hunger and bring healthy food to their communities. People like Green For All Fellow Hakim Cunningham, who helps build urban gardens to expand access to fresh fruits and vegetables for low-income Bostonians. Or Dana Frasz, whose Oakland organization, Food Shift, works to reduce food waste and bring healthy meals to hungry residents. Or Diana Teran, who, after recognizing the need for healthy food options in her hometown of Tucson, started her own vegan food company, La Tuana Tortillas—and is now creating jobs for others.

Thousands of Americans are working in their communities every day to solve the problems of hunger and lack of access to healthy food. These folks are heroes, and our leaders in Congress should take a cue from them.

Instead of attacking the most vulnerable among us, we need to band together to find lasting solutions to hunger and poverty. And we can start by bringing back full food stamp benefits for the people who desperately need them.

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