Clean Air: A Civil and Human Right
Five year old Micah looks longingly out of the window of his Portsmouth, VA
home as the kids walk home from school as they plan to toss their book bags on their beds, grab a snack and run back outside to enjoy the final daylighthours playing with friends before dinner. Micah won’t be able to do any of those things because it’s a “bad air quality day”which means he had to stay home from school (again) and his mom had to stay home from work to be with him (again).
Micah shouldn’t have to live an existence where he has to take Vitamin D supplement because he isn’t exposed to the sun enough to get the levels we all take for granted as we absorb it naturally; where stepping out of his door and trying to inhale puts his life at risk; where his mom has to try to teach him his lessons with a furrowed brow as she contemplates the docked pay she anticipates because of her missed work day; where his possibilities may be diminished due to truncated social and educational development.
Clean air is a civil and human right. Through the air pollution that impacts millions of Micahs in the US and beyond, the right to clean air is being violated. Unfortunately the denial of the right to clean air disproportionately affects communities of color and low income communities as they are more likely to live in counties in violation of air pollution standards.
As human rights are inalienable, the contamination of our air also violates rights to education, health, food, clean water, and other essential elements of human life and wellbeing as illustrated through Micah’s story and beyond.
This is why the NAACP has taken up the issue of the right to clean air as a central focus of our environmental and climate justice program. Micah and his family and millions of others deserve our championship because in this land of plenty, with all of the resources at our disposal, we have alternatives to polluting facilities that are poisoning our communities.. We are working with corporations, federal, state and local governments to develop and maintain standards of accountability to upholding the health and wellbeing of all communities.