Air Connects Us All: Working with Students for Clean Air, Climate Health, and Environmental Justice

Oct 20, 2020

by Mary Stauble

“Use what you got, start where you are, and do what you can.”  Kelisha Wing

At Clean Air Carolina, we’re committed to reducing air pollution and its harmful effects on North Carolinians. Air pollution can impact our health throughout our lifetimes, and is one of the leading causes of death around the world, exceeding even deaths caused by smoking tobacco. In the US alone, over 100,000 people die prematurely from air pollution each year. Heavy exposure to air pollution can also exacerbate many serious health problems, and can create long-term health consequences for children by impacting their lung and brain development.

The pandemic holds many lessons. As people stopped traveling and businesses closed down, the air cleared. The rapid, dramatic decline in the burning of oil, coal, and natural gas caused an equally dramatic improvement in air quality. Halting harmful practices makes a real, immediate difference.

The pandemic has also shone a light on existing environmental justice issues, as people living in areas with higher levels of air pollution are seeing higher rates of COVID-19 mortality. Thanks to a legacy of discriminatory housing and zoning decisions, residents in black, brown, and indigenous communities often live in closer proximity to heavy sources of air pollution — making those communities more vulnerable to the disease. This simply isn’t just.  Everyone deserves to breathe clean, healthy air.

Beyond making us sick, burning fossil fuels also releases excess carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air, trapping heat in our atmosphere and driving climate change. Human activity is the root cause of this problem. But it can also be the solution. We can talk about making smart choices each day to help reduce our carbon footprint. We can lobby elected officials to pass climate-friendly legislation. We are all in this together. When we clean up our air, we protect our environment, our children, and ourselves.

Teachers have a lot on their plates right now (even more than usual!). They are on the front lines helping our kids each single day, but they are understandably overwhelmed. That’s why Clean Air Carolina and Clean Air for Kids are committed to providing teaching resources that can help teachers talk about this important topic.

One fun way to introduce climate change to students is by sharing images of the Cool Globes art exhibit currently in Charlotte, and by encouraging students to participate in our virtual Cool Globes Challenge. You can also sign up for our biannual Clean Air For Kids newsletter to get links to activities, short videos, and other teaching resources for clean air and climate education.