Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Commentary: As a veteran with one lung, my ability to breathe depends on climate action

In March of 1969, I left my hometown of Millcreek to serve in the infantry in Vietnam. After the war, I moved back home to the Salt Lake Valley to teach sixth grade science and math. Like many who fought on the ground in Vietnam, I had been exposed to agent orange and I had no idea.
It wasn’t until 2005, after I had been experiencing some health problems, that a doctor told me that agent orange had deteriorated my lungs so severely I had no other choice than to receive surgery to have one of my lungs removed. Now I live with one functioning lung, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and asthma.
I called the Salt Lake Valley home for the majority of my life, but as the pollution increased over time, living there with one lung became impossible. I could not breathe, and ultimately decided to move to Midway, where the air is less polluted.
As a veteran, I care about how this nation protects not only my fellow veterans, but all of our civilians. If the air above our country continues to weaken people’s health and displace them from their homes, what does that mean for the security of this nation?
When the United States joined the Paris Agreement in 2015, it joined other leading nations to combat climate change and transition to clean energy to avoid the worst impacts of rising global temperatures. I was immensely proud of our nation that day. But when President Trump pulled out of that agreement, he decided that corporations and special interests were more important than the security and prosperity of Americans.
Steve Smith is a retired teacher and Vietnam veteran

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