The more we learn, the more we understand that we’re living in a toxic world of our own creation. In just the past six months, we’ve discovered that childhood lead exposure in the U.S. may have stolen an average of almost three IQ points per person, and that, according to one study, rainwater worldwide is too polluted to drink. Combined with the increasingly deadly heatwaves, wildfires and hurricanes the fossil fuel industry has caused through climate change, the fate of our health and our planet can feel hopeless.
In New York this Nov. 8, we can act to turn the tide.
On the ballot voters will get to weigh in on a $4.2 billion dollar Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, or “Proposition 1.” If we pass this law, we could buy bonds to fund projects that would help clean up our drinking water, reduce air pollution, conserve family farms and protect us from the increasing threats of the climate crisis. According to a recent report, the Bond Act would create more than 84,000 jobs, a boost for the state’s economy. Many of the investments included in the Bond Act offer the opportunity to prioritize nature-based solutions to prepare for future challenges.
For example, the Bond Act includes $200 million to fix our water infrastructure, including replacing our old lead pipes and antiquated sewer system. New York State is in dire need of lead pipe replacements, with about 360,000 lead pipes that deliver water to people’s homes, the fourth highest of any U.S. state. In New York City, approximately 40% of all building lots use a lead service line to deliver drinking water.
Our ancient sewage system is also in need of updating. Last year, sewer backups across New York City rose sharply due to more frequent and intense rainfall than the city’s sewer system can handle. That means there are city residents who face a barrage of waste repeatedly flooding their homes — another thing that infrastructure improvements can help with.
Under the Act, $900 million would be used to limit our greenhouse gas emissions by funding projects like electric school buses and green buildings. This progress is essential if we’re going to stop climate change because buildings and transportation account for 60% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.The Bond Act will provide New Yorkers protection against extreme heat — a problem that grows every summer — by investing in green roofs, urban tree plantings, cool pavement and community cooling centers. New York City is the third hottest heat island in the U.S., enduring temperatures 15 to 20 degrees hotter than its surrounding areas. Heat also intensifies smog, which can irritate the eyes and throat and also damage the lungs, especially in children, seniors, and people who spend time outdoors.
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Environmental justice communities — communities that are primarily composed of people of color and households who earn lower incomes, like Harlem, the South Bronx and Bedford-Stuyvesant — are especially vulnerable to extreme heat and air pollution, which is why $200 million will be dedicated to cleaning up the air and water in these neighborhoods and others like it.
New York City is already bearing the brunt of climate change. This summer has been one full of thunderstorms, heavy rain and flash flooding that has derailed traffic, flooded subways and damaged homes. Just last year, 11 New Yorkers died in their flooded basements when torrential rains from Hurricane Ida pounded the city.
Sea levels are rising around New York City at an alarming rate — more than one foot in the last 100 years — nearly twice the global average.
The Bond Act would help protect our communities against these realities by spending $1.1 billion to restore our coasts and protect our homes from flood risk by paying for voluntary buyouts; restoring wetlands; and updating coastal infrastructure like culverts and dams.
Investments from previous bond acts have benefitted every corner of New York by investing in public parks, open space preservation, water infrastructure investment, wildlife conservation, toxic cleanups, and more. The 2022 Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act — or Proposition 1 — promises to do all that and more.
It is up to New Yorkers like us to vote to make it a reality. Be sure to flip your ballot over and vote for Proposition 1 on Nov. 8.
Ong leads the New York regional team at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Read More: N.Y., pass the Environmental Bond Act – New York Daily News