- Created on Thursday, 21 June 2012 18:03
On of the issues that is perennially on our legislative agenda that typically flies under the radar is our position on environmental issues. Broadly, our position reads: We must protect the integrity of creation and our public health by ensuring the quality of the natural environment and food sources. We must continue to invest in sustainability — in clean, renewable energy, and we must reduce emission of greenhouse gases. (See JRLC’s Ecology Positions, 1997.) While environmental issues are areas of rapidly growing concern, the reason they are typically less prominent in our legislative work is because the lobby for environmental concerns is already rather large in relation to poverty issues. Working with the limited resources we do, we generally add our efforts to underrepresented causes at the capitol.
But the intersection of environmentalism and poverty is an area that we would like to further explore. Recent studies and stories in the news highlight the unique relationship between these two issues, and how solving them can be more contrived than we may believe. One recent example has been a conversation about a proposed increase in the permissible amount of emissions from burning garbage. You can read the full story here for more details, but environmental concerns groups found that in addition to the detrimental environmental effects of increased emissions from burning, there are also health concerns for residents, such as negative health outcomes among children who live in low-income neighborhoods in close proximity to the burn sites.
According to the Daily Planet article, the pollutants from the burning causes health issues mainly in low-income neighborhoods of North Minneapolis or the Phillips neighborhood in South Minneapolis. Public health nurse Beverly Propes, at a recent public hearing on the emissions, reported measuring the ozone level every morning. Over time, she was able to correlate high ozone levels with levels of high absenteeism from school due to asthma and related symptoms.
Another example comes from the Children's Defense Fund's most recent Kids Count Databook. It is becoming fairly common knowledge that highly processed foods cause health issues and have negative environmental impacts, but buying local organic foods may be out of the question for those on a tight budget. To further complicate this, is the reality of access. Many low-income neighborhoods or rural communities are in food deserts, or communities with low access to supermarkets or grocery stores. According to the report, 63 counties in Minnesota have food deserts, affecting about 94,000 children around the state.
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