Pro­tec­tions to our air mat­ter

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OPINION -

Since age 7, I’ve been a foot­ball player. I loved the game then, and I love the game still. While other play­ers could test their skills in dif­fer­ent po­si­tions on the field, spend ex­tra hours train­ing, ex­cel above and be­yond for col­lege schol­ar­ships, I couldn’t. My asthma was so bad, I found my­self sit­ting out a lot and spend­ing most of my time just try­ing to catch my breath.

I live with 34 per­cent lung ca­pac­ity. Un­der the poli­cies of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and new act­ing En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) Ad­min­is­tra­tor An­drew Wheeler, my re­al­ity could be­come the re­al­ity of Amer­i­cans af­fected by in­creas­ing ex­po­sure to air pol­lu­tion na­tion­wide.

Here’s what that re­al­ity looks like: I have lived my life in and out of the hospi­tal con­tin­u­ously.

To de­velop the strength to live out­side the hospi­tal, I rely on thou­sands of dol­lars worth of med­i­ca­tion ev­ery month: three shots ev­ery other week, eight dif­fer­ent med­i­ca­tions ev­ery day, and when I’m well enough, to get back 3 shots of al­lergy medicine twice a week ev­ery week. To this day, with­out these, I will not be able to sur­vive.

Tak­ing out my in­haler on the side­lines of a foot­ball field isn’t fun. But that’s the re­al­ity I was born with, and I’ve learned to live with the strict med­i­ca­tion reg­i­men and lim­ited abil­ity. Twen­ty­five mil­lion Amer­i­cans with asthma suf­fer like I do be­cause of the qual­ity of the air we breathe. Our gov­ern­ment can fix this. It is the obli­ga­tion of the EPA to do that, and it has the power to do so. But un­der Trump and Wheeler, our air is about to be­come even worse.

On Wed­nes­day, Au­gust 2nd, Act­ing EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Wheeler an­nounced new poli­cies to undo the Obama-era clean car stan­dards, freez­ing ef­fi­ciency in­creases in place in 2020.

Pro­tec­tions to our air mat­ter. They make a huge dif­fer­ence. The ex­haust from tailpipes sig­nif­i­cantly con­trib­utes to global warm­ing. In fact, the plan to make cars more ef­fi­cient was the big­gest step the U.S. had taken to ad­dress cli­mate change, and with­out it, we will fall be­hind the goals we agreed to in the Paris Cli­mate Agree­ment. While some peo­ple might see global warm­ing as an ab­stract, dis­tant prob­lem, I feel its con­se­quences ev­ery day: as my state gets hot­ter and hot­ter ev­ery sum­mer, it phys­i­cally pains my lungs to adapt.

At the mo­ment, I’m earn­ing my col­lege de­gree in en­gi­neer­ing and po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at Vir­ginia State Uni­ver­sity. I’m a per­son who looks at a re­al­ity, and de­signs a way to build it into a bet­ter one. The re­al­ity is, over the course of my life­time, our tech­nolo­gies have pro­gressed sig­nif­i­cantly as a coun­try and a world. There are now sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper and more fuel ef­fi­cient ways to en­gi­neer cars while also keep­ing them safe. The fact that the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion is pri­or­i­tiz­ing cor­po­ra­tions at the ex­pense of chil­dren’s and se­niors’ health is not only im­moral - it’s lit­er­ally back­wards for our coun­try’s ad­vance­ment.

My asthma is what it is, but it lim­ited me in ways that af­fected my so­cial, ath­letic, and aca­demic ad­vance­ments. I would never wish that on any­one else. For all the lit­tle kids out there who are grasp­ing a foot­ball with ex­cite­ment in their eyes, give them the air they need to run. An­ton Richard­son Jr. Ch­ester, Vir­ginia A ris­ing col­lege fresh­man at Vir­ginia State Uni­ver­sity

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