They Are Our Kids
In honor of Mother's Day, we bring you a powerful call to action against today's environmental crisis from mother, scientist, and activist Dr. Sandra Steingraber. Like moms across the country, Sandra worries about the health of her own children as well as every child growing up in this country who is exposed to toxic chemicals. Unfairly and heartbreakingly, it is children from lower-income communities and communities of color who are exposed to the highest levels of toxic chemicals where they live and play.
In the introduction to Raising Elijah, her 2011 book about raising children in a toxic world, Dr. Steingraber writes:
"I call for outspoken, full-throated heroism in the fact of the great moral crisis of our own day: the environmental crisis. And, because the main victims of this unfolding calamity are our own children, this book speaks directly to parents.
In fact, the environmental crisis is actually two crises, although they share a common cause. You could view it as a tree with two main branches. One branch represents what is happening to our planet through the atmospheric accumulation of heat-trapping gasses (most notably, carbon dioxide and methane), and the other branch represents what is happening to us through the accumulation of inherently toxic chemical pollutants in our bodies.
Follow the first branch along and you find droughts, floods, acidifying oceans, dissolving coral reefs, and faltering plankton stocks. (The oceans' plankton provides half of our atmospheric oxygen supply. More on this in Chapter 6.) Follow the second branch along and you find pesticides in children's urine, lungs stunted by air pollutants, abbreviated pregnancies, altered hormon levels, and lower scores on cognitive tests.
The trunk of this tree is an economic dependency on fossil fuels, primarily coal (plant fossils) and petroleum and natural gas (animal fossils). When we light them on fire, we threaten the global ecosystem. When we use them as feedstocks for making stuff, we create substances—pesticides, solvents, plastics—that can tinker with our subcellular machinery and the various signaling pathways and that make it run.
Biologist Rachel Carson first called our attention to these manifold dangers a half century ago in her 1962 book, Silent Spring. In it, she posited that 'future generations are unlikely to condone our lack of prudent concern for the integrity of the natural world that supports all life.'
Since then, the scientific evidence for its disintegration has become irrefutable, and members of the future generations to which she was referring are now occupying our homes.
They are our kids."
—excerpted from Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis. Copyright 2011 by Sandra Steingraber.