Apr 08, 2015

Cristina Cooper

As the mother of two young children, I think about the future often. I think about how our family will continue to grow, and what kind of world my children will inherit. I don’t think it’s fair that our children should inherit the mistakes of previous generations, or pay the price in their adulthood for pollution happening today.

My son Charlie has asthma, and my heart aches when I see him suffer from respiratory infections or even just the common cold – both made worse by his asthma. I feel especially bad for children whose asthma is made worst simply by playing outside because air pollution is so bad. Our children are growing every day, and their lungs are especially vulnerable. Clean air is important for all, and especially important for children - especially those who already have respiratory conditions, like asthma.

For example, Charlie recently had a respiratory infection that really aggravated his asthma. We were up several nights in a row as he wheezed, coughed and struggled for air. It was very scary. We do everything we can to keep our children safe. But there are some dangers – such as air pollution – that we simply can't see. In a previous job, I helped women with breast cancer. I saw how cancer and other diseases could be linked to environmental issues. Our health and environment are interconnected. Our family is fortunate to be able to choose where we live, but there other families who may not be able to choose whether they live away from major roadways or other air pollutants that can cause or exacerbate existing respiratory conditions like the one my son has. 

Although he is still young and forming his own ideas of the world, I take every opportunity with Charlie to point out ways to be kind and thoughtful. It’s amazing to see how much he picks up on. Charlie notices trash in the park or on the playground and asks if we can throw it away so the park will be clean again. 

In our home, we recycle more than we throw away. My husband takes the bus every day. We’re intentional about energy efficiency in our home. We talk to Charlie about these choices as much as it makes sense for his age. In our family, we’re taking personal responsibility to conserve. Businesses should be accountable for their actions, too. Those with a significant environmental impact should do their part to increase sustainability. I’ve seen in my own home how investing in efficiency saves more money in the end, even if you have to initially invest in it. 

When I think about my children’s future, I think not only of their health, but also of them being able to enjoy the same Oregon beauty I grew up with. We’re so lucky to live here. I want them to know the natural places we love are going to be there for them, and their children. Working for a more sustainable future is the backbone of progress; a healthy planet is the result we all enjoy – now and in the world we leave for our kids.