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air pollution

  • Since the 1960s, more and more Americans have begun voicing their concerns about how we’re treating the environment. It would seem that we’re beginning to realize just how much our wellbeing is dependent on our relationship with nature.

    So, here’s the bad news: unnatural shifts in ecological balances caused by human activity such as global warming, mass extinctions, and soil infertility are extremely harmful not just to our personal health, but to our survival as a nation as well.

    A dying ecosystem

    Let’s take honeybees for example. Studies by the University of California show that one out of eight interactions between plant and pollinator is carried out by a honeybee. They’re responsible for the production of most fruits, nuts, seeds, as well as various other plant life, which is how we get food not just for the American population but also for our poultry and cattle stock. This is what makes the honeybee one of the most important contributors to our natural ecosystem, as well as our economic survival as well. Alarmingly, bees are also vanishing rapidly in the U.S. because of the aftereffects of poisonous pesticides, chemicals, and pathogens.

    At the same time, these chemical pollutants threaten more than just bees. These substances can cause harm to humans as well, causing headaches, nausea, irritation, breathing difficulties, and various other health complications. What’s worrying is that these harmful chemicals are present in most of our cleaning products like air fresheners, fabric softeners, and toilet cleaners.

    What has been done?

    One way to solve these problems is by investing national funds into environmental conservation efforts. Sadly, the U.S. government seems keen on spending less in terms of keeping ecological balances intact. In 2017, the Trump administration significantly reduced the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) funding, which is the federal body in charge of conservation and management efforts in most federal lands. In fiscal year 2018, the DOI’s budget was reduced to $11.6 billion. The reduction was based on a proposal that would cut the department’s budget annually by $1.6 billion.

    This lack of funding has caused some states to look elsewhere in order to finance conservation projects. In Minnesota, the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund has funded approximately 1000 similar projects since 1991. The contributions, which reach close to $500 million, help preserve Minnesota’s natural resources and were sourced from the state lottery. Meanwhile, ABC detail how the state of Colorado has a similar program, and allots its lottery-gained charitable funds to various wildlife organizations and trusts. Lottoland notes how the U.S. MegaMillions minimum jackpot is $40 million, while its highest ever recorded jackpot was a staggering $1.6 billion. With both lottery providers and winners now providing a steady stream of charitable donations to state-run programs, experts hope that this will go a long way to improving conservation efforts if the national government doesn't step up.

    Environmental obligation

    It’s clear that the federal government can and should be doing a lot more in terms of preserving America’s ecological balances, especially considering their direct and long-term impact on the nation’s health. The term “health” here is encompassing – referring to the health of the U.S. economy as well as the general wellbeing of the population. Pollution is what American economists call an externality or “a cost that the responsible entity can escape but that society as a whole must bear”.

    With businesses unable to address these problems on their own, the government now has a greater obligation to protect our ecosystems, even if doing so may impact to our short-term economic growth. But instead, the biggest portion of the U.S. annual budget goes to the military and national debts.

    It's clear that government and businesses can’t tackle these ongoing ecological imbalances alone. We must also do our part as citizens to make sure that the world is still habitable not just for honeybees, but ultimately for America's future generations.

  • In today's world, finding common ground is not always an easy task. But here's one thing all Americans can agree on: we want to have clean air and a healthy economy. Because of technologies like wind energy, we don't have to choose one over the other.

    Growing wind power powers American job creation and economic development, while over time increasing U.S. energy independence by using a homegrown, emission-free electricity source.

    America's 100,000—strong wind power workforce
    Over 100,000 Americans are employed by the wind industry today, across all 50 states. Many of these are manufacturing positions at the nation's more than 500 factories that build the blades, towers, and other parts that go into wind turbines. Over 25,000 of these U.S. workers have well-paying jobs at wind manufacturing facilities, breathing new life into an economic sector that has struggled for decades.

    "I've got very strong high moral and Christian values, and I think they line up very well with this kind of energy," says Blake Kasper, a Quality Supervisor at Broadwind Energy in Abilene, Texas, where he helps build wind turbine towers. "There's just so much work, orders keep pumping in. The opportunities are limitless."

    Importantly, many of these new manufacturing jobs are found across the Rust Belt, hiring workers where they're needed the most. Ohio leads the way with 62 wind factories, while Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan boast 26 each.

    And these jobs will continue growing. Wind manufacturing jobs will grow to 33,000 by the end of President Trump's first term, according to recent analysis from Navigant consulting. Because 99 percent of wind farms are built in rural areas, many of the jobs that wind creates belong to those living in our country's agricultural areas. This offers new career opportunities in communities where those can be scarce.

    For example, a wind turbine technician is by far America's fastest growing job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The profession is projected to grow by 108 percent over the next decade, far outpacing the next job on the list, occupational therapy assistant, only increasing by 42 percent. With nearly all of the country's 52,000, and counting, wind turbines in rural areas, there is strong demand for more technicians to keep them running smoothly.

    The U.S. wind industry also proudly offers good career opportunities to the men and women who serve our country— veterans find wind energy jobs at a rate 50 percent higher than the average industry.

    This massive U.S. job creation will not stop anytime soon. By 2020, there could by 248,000 wind-related jobs according to Navigant Consulting.

    Investing in rural America

    You don't need to have a wind job to realize the economic benefits of wind power, however. Wind farms bring new resources into rural areas in a nearly unmatched scale.

    Nearly all of the country's wind projects are built on private land, which means farmers and ranchers get lease payments in exchange for hosting wind turbines. These payments totaled $245 million in 2016 alone, and approximately $175 million of that total went to landowners in low-income counties. That number will keep increasing as the U.S. wind industry continues to grow.

    Lease payments offer income farmers and ranchers can count on when commodity prices fluctuate or bad weather hurts the harvest. For many families, these payments can make the difference between continuing a multi-generation tradition and ending a way of life. That's why some call wind energy their "drought-proof cash crop."

    However, entire communities benefit from these projects, not just wind farm landlords.

    Wind farms are often a county's largest taxpayers, so they add substantial revenue to the local budget. This income helps pay teacher salaries, fix roads and buy new ambulances. Navigant projects new wind projects will create $8 billion of added sales, income and property tax payments over just the next four years, on top of payments coming from projects that already exist. In all, wind will drive another $85 billion of economic activity between now and 2020.

    "Wind energy, the fastest-growing source of electricity in the U.S., is transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the federal government gave land to homesteaders 150 years ago," the Omaha World-Herald recently reported.

    Clean air, healthy communities
    Wind energy provides all of these economic benefits while also playing a major role in creating cleaner air.

    By reducing harmful air pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that cause smog and trigger asthma attacks, wind created $7.3 billion in public health savings in 2015 alone. By 2050, wind could prevent a total of 22,000 premature deaths and save $108 billion in public health costs by reducing air pollution, according to the Department of Energy.

    "Unhealthy air is hazardous to our families and even can threaten life itself," according to the American Lung Association's (ALA) Healthy Air Campaign. That is why the ALA has adopted as one of its goals the transition to a clean energy future, "to protect all people from the harm of air pollution." Wind's clean air role should grow in the years to come.

    Today, the U.S. has enough installed wind capacity to power 24 million homes, and it is on track to supply 10 percent of the country's electricity by 2020.

    Substantial job creation, billions of dollars of economic investment and clearer air—American wind power helps us create the healthy economy and environment we all want.