Raise your hand if you’re surprised.
Cleveland is ranked sixth in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report for 2003-2005. Cincinnati follows close behind at eighth most polluted in the “Year-Round Particle Pollution” section of the report.
As Cincinnati City Councilman David Crowley carefully negotiates city council politics to garner support for an environmental-justice ordinance, business people in this burg can consider changing their perspective on the environmental impact of their business activities as an opportunity to make Cincinnati the wonderful place the Chamber of Commerce already claims it is.
How does a city attract new business and retain existing businesses when the only places with dirtier air are Pittsburgh; Detroit; Birmingham, Ala.; and three counties in California? Some suggestions:
• Stop whining about how the unique structure of the river valley and seven hills captures and retains pollution from other areas. When you tout that same river valley and those hills as a beautiful feature, you have to deal with the flip side — the cost of having such a unique terrain.
• Support the work and enforcement of the Office of Environmental Management recently reinstituted in the city administration.
• Look for more ways the business members of the community can make a contribution to cleaning up this place instead of pitting them against residents and other community members.
• Stop arguing against environmental controls as an “unnecessary” or “burdensome” cost of doing business and spin it for what it is — an essential cost of doing business that has great return on investment.
• Take a lesson from nature: Birds don’t shit in their nests. Look at the ways this community shits on itself and find alternatives that are healthy. There are only a few bazillion resources available from other communities that have had more difficult problems to face than we have.
As someone who has been covering environmental issues in Cincinnati for more than two years, I know how limited my experience is. The choice of a pleasant tone, a nasty one or something in between can be perceived as wishy-washy, combative or anything else the listener wants to hear. No matter what I say or how I say it, someone will take issue. So why bother?
Because it’s time to wake up and smell the hummus. We have a mayor who is willing to use his political clout to address environmental issues. We have yet another report denigrating yet another aspect of this community. We have a statewide movement to address environmental justice concerns. We have a lot going for us now — so let’s act before we end up in the top three.
Whether you shame, persuade or find some other method of getting snippy city council members to pay attention and deal with the reality of our polluted environment doesn’t matter. Just pick an approach and start writing letters, sending e-mails and showing up in their offices demanding action.
This is an election year — wave this report under their noses and ask for/demand a practical response, not a made-for-TV sound bite. Make this an issue during the upcoming election and hold them accountable.
— Margo Pierce