deOlloqui: Climate Festival offers fun, lessons, hope

deOlloqui: Climate Festival offers fun, lessons, hope

August 16th, 2014 By Stefanie deOlloqui in Opinion Columns

IF YOU GO

What: Climate Chattanooga Festival.

When: 4-9 p.m. today.

Where: The Crash Pad, 29 Johnson St.

Admission: Free.

Email: Climate-Chattanooga-list@SwierraClub.org.

WORKSHOP SCHEDULE

Note: All will be held at GreenSpaces, 63 E. Main St.

2:15 p.m. Dirty Energy Road Show by Mountain Justice

4:15 p.m. Better Business, Better World by Green/Light

5:15 p.m. Leave the Fossils in the Earth or in a Museum by Tennessee Sierra Club

6:15 p.m. What Is Environmental Justice? Building a Wholistic Movement in the 21st Century by Concerned Citizens for Justice

We all know Chattanooga has come a long way in taking an interest in public health. We are promoting safer streets, stronger neighborhoods and efforts to spur economic development. We strategically think about how we live, work and play. Terms such as livability and smart growth are commonplace. I think it is safe to say that we get it!

Energy efficiencies and renewable energy are an essential part of this equation. Amazing accomplishments are happening in our backyard. From the LEED certification earned by EPB's downtown building to the photo-voltaic solar panels installed at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport to opportunities to learn offered through GreenSpaces, things are happening. This speaks to our proud legacy in Chattanooga of cleaning up our air, especially through technological innovation. We've been doing it since Walter Cronkite's declaration that we were the "dirtiest" city in America" over 40 years ago. Why stop now?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will soon update its air quality standards for smog -- ground-level ozone -- as required under the Clean Air Act. This is important: The American Lung Association reports that breathing in smog pollution often results in immediate breathing trouble. Basically, inhaling smog is like getting a sunburn on your lungs. Long-term exposure can harm our health in countless ways and have life-threatening consequences. Exposure to smog pollution is linked to chronic asthma and other respiratory and lung diseases, reproductive and developmental harm, and even premature death. Smog pollution is a major asthma trigger and is an enormous economic drain on communities from health care costs and lost productivity.

On the horizon, there is another important policy change. The EPA proposed a new Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon gas emissions that impact climate change. These new protections could have a big impact by 2030. Nationally, they estimate we will avoid 6,600 premature deaths, 150,000 asthma attacks in children, 3,300 heart attacks, 2,800 hospital admissions, and 490,000 missed school and work days. They also predict these protections will spur innovations and growth in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. They will create new types of jobs.

Chattanooga is proud to be called an outdoor destination. We take pride in our natural assets. It is of utmost importance that we look critically at how our energy is produced. We need to get involved, be educated and understand these issues.

Please join us for the Climate Chattanooga Festival today from 4 to 9 p.m. at The Crash Pad at 29 Johnson St. to show your support. It is a great opportunity to learn about safeguarding our health.

Stefanie deOlloqui is a master certified health education specialist and public health professional. She spent over a decade at the North Carolina Health Department directing three statewide environmental health regulatory programs. DeOlloqui's most recent work focuses on policy, practice, and research with projects that have a tangible impact on local communities.