DIY: Create Your Own Clean Air Act (with video)

I am a bit of a DIY maven. If I can’t find an item that I need or want, I locate a tutorial, purchase a how-to book, or join a group. Figuring out how to make something is an immensely rewarding challenge – it truly becomes yours.

I’ve been watching the emergence of the latest DIY wave. It began very grassrootsy, and to some degree this convergence of art, craft, music and design is still an indie movement. Some say there is a new dimension in the latest surge of DIYers based on the fantastic craftiness of the 1970’s. Our parents and grandparents rocked it like they rocked the Clean Air Act in 1970. Unfortunately, while DIY may be on the rise, clean air is taking a nosedive.

Clean Air Belongs To Us!

According to the latest health, political and environmental exposés, air pollution is soaring. Asthma rates are ridiculous, the planet is heating up, and some politicians are teaming up against our kids with pro-polluting power company CEO’s. These folks are lying, distorting, and fabricating the facts to confuse and insult the public.

The sobering evidence might make you want to never leave your house, but experience tells that nothing good comes from that. The problem doesn’t go away…it only gets worse.

In the spirit of DIY, let’s make our own Clean Air Act!

3 Ways To Create Your Own Clean Air Act

1. Identify there is a problem to solve. This is an easy one…The American Lung Association published an important document, the State of the Air that analyzed the data and proved one in five people still live in communities with lethal levels of smog and particulate pollution. Need more ammo? Read on.

2. Figure out the cost. The cost is our time, energy, and parent power. The legwork can get done by joining the fight. We can email our public officials, share clean air ideas with our communities through Twitter and Facebook, and tell those who believe it is too expensive to protect our air, water and land, that it's much more expensive not to.

3. Dive in and make it yours. The last clean air fix to limit emissions in 2008 was politically driven. President Bush chipped away at recommendations for stronger protections. These standards allowed far more ozone than the EPA’s science advisers unanimously recommended, and far more than Clean Air Act requirements at the time allowed. We can cut through the political smog.

Here's how moms and dads can drive the clean air movement:

Pollution Monitoring Enforces The Law - Let’s keep our eye on the ball and work with scientists and state officials to lower the monitoring costs, expand the ability to track pollutants, and protect the legacy of the Clean Air Act.

Don’t Delay – Unfinished projects are the bane of a DIYers existence. They are costly and unproductive. Clean air delay tactics are dangerous because they also cost lives. If the rules continue to erode, and politically-driven decisions take the place of scientific ones, our children will continue to suffer.

Work Together - Just like creating a group project, we can create a DIY Clean Air Movement. Participate in strengthening air quality by restoring a commitment to science and law that will protect our kids from pollution. It will not just bring immense DIY satisfaction, it can give our kids the healthy future they deserve.

Join the DIY Clean Air Movement because...Clean Air Belongs To Us!

Credit: Ketzel via Standard

5 Scientists (and Dr. Oz) Make Clean Air Sense

Scientists are not political big shots, or the rock stars of the environmental movement. They are concerned citizens like you and I who set out to systematically discover and document answers to pressing scientific queries. Doctors, nurses, researchers and professors devote their lives to making the world a better place for our families.

Earlier this year, more than 2,500 U.S. scientists sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to reject legislation that would gut the EPA of its protective safeguards and ignore the human toll that inaction would take on their citizens. Here is an excerpt from the Scientists’ Statement.

“We urge you (Congress) to oppose attacks on the Clean Air Act by respecting the scientific integrity of the EPA’s endangerment finding, and the agency’s authority to act based on this finding.”

We trust these smart folks with the health of our children. Scientists know that stripping the EPA of its ability to protect our children against environmental pollutants means more asthma attacks, more respiratory illnesses and disease, and more premature deaths. They are well aware that in the past 40 years, the Clean Air Act has prevented 400,000 premature deaths and hundreds of millions of cases of respiratory diseases, which is why…

1. The Lung Doctor - Dr. Albert A. Rizzo of the American Lung Association and a pulmonary and critical care physician, responded to the release of American Electric Power’s evaluation of the impact of Clean Air Act pollution protections:

“Continuing to belch hazardous pollutants into the air we breathe is not an acceptable business practice and neither is threatening rate hikes and electricity shortages when big polluters are asked to clean up their toxic emissions. The EPA’s proposed mercury and air toxics reduction rule will prevent 17,000 premature deaths and 120,000 asthma attacks each year. Yet, American Electric Power (AEP) is irresponsibly attempting to scare Americans away from demanding that their children no longer be exposed to dangerous levels of pollutants like mercury and arsenic, and other toxic pollutants. Clean Air Act protections do not mandate the closing of power plants but rather set standards that many energy companies have met using existing technologies to successfully rein in dangerous pollutants. The imperative to clean up is strong: these toxins are directly linked to grave health problems, from developmental complications in babies and young children, to asthma attacks and long-term lung complications. After more than two decades of delay, big polluters and their friends in Congress want further delays rather than investing in pollution cleanup.”

2. The Pediatrician - Dr. Jerome A. Paulson, for the American Academy of Pediatrics, testified last week at the Senate's Clean Air Act and Public Health hearing. The whole testimony is powerful, but here’s his statement on the effects of mercury on children:

“As a pediatrician who has cared for children suffering from the health impacts of air pollution, I am incredibly concerned about threats to clean air and the effect of air pollution on children’s health…The developing fetus and young children are disproportionately affected by methyl mercury exposure, because many aspects of development, particularly brain maturation, can be disturbed by the presence of methyl mercury. Minimizing mercury exposure is essential to optimal child health.”

3. The Science Professor Dr. Arden Pope, a Brigham Young University epidemiologist who led a New England Journal of Medicine study, found that efforts to reduce fine particle pollution from automobiles, diesel engines, steel mills and coal-fired power plants have added between four and eight months to the average American’s life expectancy:

“It’s stunning that the air pollution effect seems to be as robust as it is…However, the continuing problem demonstrates that more remains to be done, especially in cleaning up coal-fired power plants and existing diesel engines.”

4. The Heart Doctor - Dr. Robert Brook is the lead author of The American Heart Association (AHA) report stating that there is strong evidence that air pollution can clog arteries, and cause strokes and heart attacks.

“Particulate matter appears to directly increase risk by triggering events in susceptible individuals within hours to days of an increased level of exposure, even among those who otherwise may have been healthy for years.”

5. The Energy Scientist - Steve Clemmer, the Director of Energy Research for the 
Union of Concerned Scientists claims that limiting coal, gas and nuclear power, and boosting the renewable energy practices of wind and solar, could meet 27% of America’s electricity needs by 2030:

“Unlike natural gas, coal or nuclear plants, wind and solar plants don’t produce air or water pollution, global warming emissions or waste products, and use much less water.”

Oh, there is a rock star scientist…and he knows Oprah!

Dr. Oz says:

“It’s sobering news that one in five people still live in communities with lethal levels of smog and particulate pollution — the toxic soup of chemicals, metals, acids, ash and soot that triggers asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes and early deaths. Makes you want to close the windows, bar the door and stay home.”

The science proves that that Clean Air Act is the bedrock that protects our children from pollution that otherwise would make their lives shorter or less healthy. For the sake of our kids, does it make sense to debunk and diminish the warnings of scientists?

Here’s how to speak up…or forever hold your breath:

Join the Moms Clean Air Force and help us fight for clean air for our kids. We need your voice! If you haven't already, please email the EPA to show your support of the new Mercury and Air Toxics rule. Thanks!

Credit: Anne Burgess for the New York Times

Not A Scientist…

I am not a scientist. I am not a politician. I am a mom. I am a teacher. I am a writer. I am an environmentalist. I want to protect my family. I care about the planet. When I became increasingly concerned about the food my family eats, the oceans we swim in, the cars we drive and the air we breathe, it became a personal choice to share and engage my readers in a dialogue about creating a lifestyle that supports our environment.

Joining the Moms Clean Air Force has opened up my eyes wider to the issue of clean air. But, just because I consider something vastly important, doesn’t mean I expect you to jump on the bandwagon. I wish you would, but I know creating clean air is not like selling a basket of locally-grown organic vegetables. People get that. They know those fresh goodies will nourish their bodies. They understand how being a locavore will nourish their souls. The message of saving the Clean Air Act is a complex and seemingly abstract problem with scientific theories, historical data, cost analysis and politics.

Just like we need to nourish our bodies and souls with good, clean food and create vibrant communities by shopping local, we need clean air to secure our health.

So let me repeat: I am not a scientist. I knew the Clean Air Act, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the States, has saved thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. But, I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to reading about babies dying and cancer rates. My biggest fear about joining the Moms Clean Air Force was that I would have to sort through stacks and stacks of reports, regulations, cost anaylsis and really nasty health studies that would leave me glazed over and paralyzed with fear. Although I am a teacher, I am a visual learner like my right-sided brain kids. Scientific technical reading rarely engages my interest for too long.

The exact opposite happened. I do believe informed decisions come from knowledge. I found a nifty tool from the Union of Concerned Scientists that helps embrace the stats. This "ticker" "shows the increase in cumulative net benefits as a result of the Clean Air Act since 1970. The source data for this calculation comes from two EPA reports."

It is scary to imagine that the Clean Air Act is under constant threat. Whether you are a scientist or not, there is one thing we all need to understand - clean air is something we have controlled and lessened...and we all have the power to be part of the solution to continue to preserve clean air.

Music Feeds The Soul (with video)

"If music be the food of life, play on." ~ Shakespeare

Music’s relationship to brainpower and wellness is truly music to my ears. The NAMM Foundation website outlines the positive effects of music-making on stress hormones, the development of new skills, confidence level, memory loss, self-esteem and overall mood.

To find some benefits of making music that you may have never heard about, read my full post HERE.

Possibly, even more remarkable than all the glowing accolades from the NAMM reports, is how music feeds the soul. Music, the book by photographer and filmmaker, Andrew Zuckerman is sure to be holiday gift hit. In this highly entertaining trailer for the book (via SwissMiss), musicians from different musical genres describe their relationship with their "food of life" ~ music:

Photo from Ben Fink

More econesting music: Living With Green Music Oil and Water Don't Mix (with video) Dar Williams Talks Sustainable Living, Music And The Book That Kicked Her Ass (Interview) “One World, One Love” – Charity and Peace In The House of Marley

Building A Sustainable Future: The Greenest Living Building and Biomimicry

As an environmental writer, I have the unique opportunity to explore a multitude of eco-related subjects. With environmental news rightfully focused on catastrophic events such as the Gulf Oil Spill, and stories about greenwashing running rampant, it may seem like there’s a fog descending upon the green world. But, I source exciting fresh information daily, I'm impressed with the level of new eco-friendly products and sustainable materials available.

As a blogger I feel that it is my duty and honor to dish out environmental news and commentary about things that have the capacity to enrich the environment and hopefully, create a more sustainable future for our kids.

I was invited last month to the Omega Institute of Holistic Studies to tour one of the most sustainable buildings in the world and listen to architects, designers and eco-visionaries discuss the inspirational process of creating the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL). The OCLS is a state-of-the-art water reclamation facility and environmental education center that brings together wastewater recycling, clean energy, green architecture and other sustainability elements that can be replicated locally and globally.

Omega spent the last four years working to achieve one of the most prestigious honors in the green world – The Living Building Challenge. To make this happen, Omega had to reach the most advanced level of sustainability in a built environment. Here we (writers and photographers) are hearing Omega's, Skip Backus talk about building the OCSL:

Three awe-inspiring things I learned at the OCSL:

1. As a high-performance designed building, the OCSL is powered by passive solar heating, a geothermal system, a photovoltaic power and includes a greenhouse and green roof, constructed wetlands and a green classroom that integrate seamlessly with the natural environment. 2. The OCSL is a teaching facility that teaches Omega participants as well as local schoolchildren how to adopt sustainable living practices in their own lives and homes. 3. From waste come life – At the core of the center is a greenhouse with a living water filtration system that uses plants, bacteria, algae, snails and fungi to recycle Omega’s wastewater (approximately 5 million gallons per year) into clean water used to restore the aquifer. To watch a video about the OCSL and learn more CLICK HERE.

While I was visiting Omega, a conference called, Design By Nature: Creative Solutions With Biomimicry, Permaculture & Sustainable Design was in full swing. This event brought together some of the nation’s foremost leaders in the fields of biomimicry, permaculture, and sustainable architecture. The main objective was to explore the creative potential of these promising green technologies for the sustainability of the planet.

Biomimicry (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) is a fascinating emerging science that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems.

Biomimicry can answer questions such as:

How would nature get water to the desert? How would nature heat and cool a home? How would nature create color without harmful chemicals or dyes? How would nature create non-toxic waterproof adhesive?

To find the answers to these questions and read more about how biomimicry can change our lives CLICK HERE.

As we hope to forge towards a more sustainable future, we can learn so much from "living buildings" like the OCSL at Omega, and scientific ideas such as biomimicry. They truly fill me with the promise of a bright green future.

Photo Credits: Omega Institute and Care2