PEORIA, IL -- Here's a thoughtful op-ed piece from Amy Scott of Bradley University:
Social movement activism has long been a cornerstone of the great American experiment in democracy. In the Sixties and Seventies, we witnessed movements for civil rights, women’s rights, and a push for more a more peaceful world. There were also widespread citizen efforts to protect our skies, streams, and rivers from toxic industrial pollutants.
Swayed by citizen pressure, a bipartisan administration passed some of the nation’s strongest environmental laws. The Clean Air Act (1970) and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (1972), remain two of the most crucial protections for the safety of our air and water.
Unfortunately, industrial pollution continues to degrade our environment and threaten the health of our communities. Just last year, parts of Peoria and Tazewell counties were declared “non-attainment” zones because they failed to meet the EPA’s standards for sulfur dioxide pollution, a severe respiratory irritant. The EPA cited the ED Edwards plant in Bartonville, which is coal-fired, as a major contributor to this pollution.
Despite lawsuits and non-attainment status, in 2013, the Illinois Pollution Control board granted Dynegy, the Houston-based owners, a “variance” from state environmental air regulations. Effectively, our state’s environmental protection agencies have given Dynegy a license to continue polluting at unacceptable levels. As stewards of Central Illinois, we have the responsibility to envision a future in which our energy doesn’t pollute our air, destroy our source of water, or heat our planet to the point of irreversible damage.
The EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposes to reduce carbon emissions nationally, and every state will decide how to implement the EPA’s plan later this year. Already, Illinois has the fourth-highest installed wind capacity in the nation; over 91 communities across Illinois are powered by renewable energy; and, there are nearly 100,000 clean energy jobs in our state. Central Illinois must build on these gains.
We need citizen involvement to ensure that our leaders promote energy efficiency and prioritize investments in renewables like wind and solar. A local community group is hosting a public forum outlining our options for renewable energy in Illinois at Bradley University on Monday, November 24th at 7:00 PM at the Marty Theater.
In 1962, environmentalist Rachel Carson asked a question that still resonates: “Why should we tolerate a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?” If your answer is, “Not me; not my loved ones; not my neighbors,” maybe it’s time to get involved.
Amy L. Scott
Associate Professor of History
Amy L. Scott is an Associate Professor of History at Bradley University, where she teaches courses on U.S. Social Movements, Urban History, and the History of the American West. She is the co-editor of, City Dreams, Country Schemes: Community and Identity in the American West (University of Nevada Press, 2011), as well as numerous other articles on the history of social movements and American cities.