It’s time for Booker, Menendez, and Gottheimer to lead the effort to pass big, bold climate action

Newton /
| 09 Aug 2021 | 05:13

    To the Editor:

    As a recently resigned school nurse in Sussex County who is passionate about the environment and the health and well-being of all children, I am calling on Senator Cory Booker, Senator Bob Menendez, and Representative Josh Gottheimer to support bold climate action to protect the health and well-being of all Sussex County children and students.

    For the past 16.5 years that I have worked as a school nurse, I have seen the deleterious effects air pollution and climate change have had on our county’s youth. I have seen over 16.5 years yearly increases in students being diagnosed with asthma as well as the alarming increases in elevated body mass indexes (BMIs) of my students and students all across the county, thus both are of enormous concern to me.

    There are an abundant amount of farms in Sussex County that can provide fresh healthy food to our schools, but we are not taking advantage of this healthy opportunity right in our own backyards! Instead, numerous trucks come from far away from Sussex County and are negatively impacting our air quality. Not only do these trucks emit unhealthy fumes which pollute our county’s air, they sit idling on school grounds while the unhealthy processed food is being unloaded into our school cafeterias. The trucks are not electric, so they further decrease air quality which is already poor due to climate change.

    Poor air quality in general is increasing the occurrences of asthma flare ups and these trucks are adding to it. Also, the unhealthy food being provided to our school aged children is increasing their BMIs at the same time while increasing their rates of asthma. This food that comes from far away is extremely low in nutrients, thus negatively impacting BMIs, as well as leading to elevated blood pressure and diabetes.

    This is not only a physical problem, it is also a problem that extends into mental and emotional well-being. The mind and body are connected. As a nurse with a psychology degree, I worked extensively in a child and adolescent locked psychiatric crisis unit for many years. I saw firsthand what unhealthy food does to a child and to an adolescent’s social, mental and emotional well-being. The children and adolescents I have worked with throughout my career who have high BMIs have poorer self-esteem and have a higher rate of depression and suicidal ideation and are oftentimes bullied. Children who are asthmatic who also have elevated BMIs tend to avoid exercise altogether, but especially avoid exercising outside due to poor air quality as it negatively impacts their asthma flare ups.

    This novel approach to current food — providing practices would not only make our Sussex County children healthier, but it would enable local farmers to sustain their livelihoods — is a win-win situation! Our leaders in Congress have an opportunity to ensure that all of New Jersey has the funding to create a safer and healthier environment for our children. Electric vehicles (EVs) can replace the fossil fuel burning trucks that pollute the air in Sussex County which affects all of the students and children in this county. President Biden’s full Build Back Better Agenda calls for a $174 billion investment in the Electric Vehicle market which will drastically improve our nation’s air quality thanks to the reduction of fuel emissions.

    Changing our energy system can address the root causes of climate change. If they act now, Congress can put the country on a pathway to 100 percent Clean Energy by 2035.

    It’s time for Senator Booker, Senator Menendez, and Representative Gottheimer to lead the effort to pass big, bold climate action.

    Jill Aquino