We Cannot Fast from Clean Air

View of Los Angeles from afar with pollution over the city.

During Ramadan, Muslims ideally sacrifice some of their own comfort while focusing on compassion, mercy and charitable giving to the hungry, thirsty, poor and disadvantaged. However, while one can fast from food and water for specific periods of time, our bodies cannot fast from air because clean air is the most life-giving force upon which we rely. In Islam, the breath is related to a person’s physical and spiritual life. Deep breathing can be very helpful in managing one’s physical, emotional, and psychological problems. That’s why as we work for healthy food and clean water for our communities, we also need to demand clean air for all.

Even though heavy-duty vehicles make up barely 5% of all vehicles on the road, they contribute more than 25% of greenhouse gas emissions within the transportation sector. This is already the largest contributor to carbon pollution in the U.S., not to mention a major source of other air pollutants like nitrogen oxides and deadly particulate matter. In Wisconsin, for example, transportation contributes to even higher emissions — over 30% of our state’s greenhouse gas emissions are from cars and trucks. Wisconsin Green Muslims, a grassroots environmental justice group formed in 2005, connects faith, environmental justice, sustainability, and healing through education and service.

Huda Alkaff

In addition to working on a new clean trucks rule that will make real pollution cuts to trucks on the road today, the EPA is creating incentives to shift new heavy-duty truck sales toward zero-emission models across the next decade. It is also investing in a robust expansion of roadside high-speed charging infrastructure for trucks. The public health benefits of an aggressive transition to electric freight are huge — fewer asthma attacks and hospital visits, not to mention less risk to children’s healthy development. The American Lung Association estimates that if truck fleets electrify by 2050, the cumulative benefits could include $735 billion in public health benefits thanks to cleaner air, 66,800 fewer deaths, 1.75 million fewer asthma attacks and 8.5 million fewer lost workdays (www.lung.org).

The economics are also smart: After a few short years, electric trucks pay for themselves because maintenance costs are significantly lower and owners can bow out of paying for expensive diesel fuel. Electric truck purchasers now get up to $40,000 in tax rebates under the Inflation Reduction Act, and these trucks are becoming cheaper every year as battery prices decline, economies of scale improve, and the relevant technology matures. It also helps that when given a chance, drivers love the new electric trucks. They are quieter, don’t emit noxious fumes, give off less heat, have fewer vibrations and overall provide a much smoother driving experience. Now the EPA can protect environmental justice communities overburdened by toxic diesel pollution and support the drivers, who spend up to 14 hours a day in their trucks, by crafting the strongest, science-backed standards possible to limit greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollution from heavy-duty freight. A faster transition to clean electric power on our roads is already here. We just need to keep it going. Moreover, the EPA must craft the strongest possible rules to safeguard environmental justice communities overburdened by toxic diesel pollution. We urge the Biden administration to rise above industry interests and prioritize alleviating the cumulative environmental and health burdens of transportation pollution that has plagued our communities for generations. The EPA must finalize strong standards that limit greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollution from the heavy-duty vehicle sector to send a clear message to manufacturers for zero emission electric models, and, ultimately, ensure clean air and protect the health of overburdened environmental justice communities as soon as possible.

Read the full article published in Islamic Horizons

About the Author:
Huda Alkaff, Founder and Director of Wisconsin Green Muslims

Additional Resources:

Register to Join the National Faith + Climate Forum

Register to Watch the American Climate Leadership Awards 2024

Join the Campaign: One Home One Future

Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Children and Youth Report 2023

Blessed Tomorrow Resources

Blessed Tomorrow – Ambassador Training

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