Do humans make the desert dry and the wind blow?
The Arizona Republic reports:
Sterling Stokes struggles to breathe the air almost every day. When the wind blows dust from farms into her Queen Creek neighborhood, she stays inside, hoping her asthma won’t land her in the hospital. She has to remember to take her medication 20 minutes before her gym class at school.
“I can’t run that much or my chest hurts,” said Sterling, who is 12. “If there’s pollution, my head hurts.”
Sterling’s parents, Salvatore and Sylvia Stokes, moved to Queen Creek about four years ago in a search for better schools.
But Sterling’s allergies and asthma have worsened, and last year she missed 40 days of school.
“She’s just not free,” Salvatore said. “You have to wonder about the quality of life here.”
Health advocates take stories like Sterling’s to state lawmakers and other elected officials, hoping the risks of polluted air will better resonate if there are faces instead of study results.
But the political landscape has shifted sharply with the rise of the “tea party” and other small-government activists.
Where once the discussion might have turned on who should pay to reduce pollution, some of the loudest voices today question the need for any regulation.
During the 2011 legislative session, the state Senate passed a bill — part of a package labeled as the “freedom to breathe act” — that would have prohibited the EPA from enforcing the provisions of the Clean Air Act that regulate man-made dust pollution. The move, if successful, would almost certainly have landed Arizona in court.
Rep. Amanda Reeve, R-Phoenix, the chairwoman of the House Environment Committee, helped stop the bill’s progress and brought in experts to explain to colleagues how the system works and why the state can’t just send the EPA packing.
Still, she said, in her view, the answer is not necessarily another raft of bills.
“We’re regulated through the teeth here,” she said. “We’re doing what we can, short of shutting down businesses every time there’s a windy day. We live in a desert. We can’t pave everything. But we can work together, educate people to take action when they need to”… [Emphasis added]