For me, the focus of the United Church of Christ on Three Great Loves hits home as I reflect upon how love of neighbors, love of children, and love of creation are intertwined for me. I live in Carlisle, Cumberland County, the transportation hub of the mid-Atlantic. We are plagued with fine particulate matter air pollution from the thousands of 18-wheelers passing through here daily. Our doctors claim increased numbers of respiratory disturbances in young children and at one time even placed a full-page ad in the local newspaper to draw attention to the problem. The Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania works with the Carlisle Area School District on a “flag program” to warn parents when levels of pollution are higher. Some children get no outdoor play on these days.
The health impacts of pollution are not some “future scenario.” They are here now! Because I care about my neighbors, the children in our community, and the way we treat our environment, I have involved myself in advocating for our Governor to take action through new regional transportation policy. Over the past few months, re-elected Gov. Tom Wolf has made the news with commitments to address climate change in Pennsylvania. At this time, when clean air and clean water progress is all but absent from the federal government, hearing state-level progress is heartening. In December, Gov. Wolf joined eight other states in the region in a plan to tackle transportation emissions, the largest source of dangerous climate emissions in the country, region, and state.
I am advocating for Gov. Wolf to prioritize areas that are currently overburdened by transportation pollution and find ways to escape the use of diesel fuels that increase pollution. I believe that if each of us can act within our communities to make a difference then our entire country will eventually experience the transformation of values and practices that we so desperately need. Our future generations are depending on all of us to make the future safe for them.
Vonny Eckman is a member of the UCC's Penn Central Conference Green Team and a member from St. Paul's United Church of Christ, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania in the Mercersburg Association.