Summer is a time for children to enjoy the freedom of playing outside, but some communities in our country are so overburdened by air pollution that it’s healthier to stay indoors. There are communities near our ports and highways where the rates of asthma, cancer and heart disease are soaring. This is the case in the Imperial Valley in Southern California, where one in five children has asthma and Onyx Bazulto keeps her young daughter inside to protect her from the exhaust spewing from the line of diesel trucks idling outside her window.
Young people who’ve grown up in these conditions are engaging in a campaign calling for an end to the toxic diesel pollution poisoning their communities. This summer they’ve launched a multi-media art contest that asks children to imagine a world without pollution.
Yudith Nieto, one of the organizers of the contest, grew up with asthma in the Manchester neighborhood of Houston, which is surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of polluting industries. Addressing the environmental issues impacting her community soon led her to engage with national organizations, including the Moving Forward Network and its Zero Emissions Now campaign. She explains, “It’s important for youth to be part of the zero emissions campaign because they are the ones who will inherit a future with deregulated extractive industries, unjust policies, toxic pollution, and the legacy of disproportionate health impacts.”
Dr. Bruce Strouble has been working with Yudith and other young leaders from across the country to find ways to engage their generation in the fight for clean air. He sees the art contest as a way to invite children in his Tallahassee community to think deeply about the reality they are living with and imagine alternatives: “The children are the future. If we are ever going to have a world with zero pollution, it is going to be youth that will make it happen.”
Artwork can be submitted until August 31st. All participants must email their art submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Along with the submission, participants must provide their name, age, and city of residence.