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Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger worked to leave California a greener state than when he was elected. In 2006 he signed the nation's first bill creating a cap on greenhouse gas emissions. In his personal life he famously coverted his Hummer to run on biofuel.  Now the Governator is bolstering his environmental legacy in the editorial section of the Wall Street Journal.  In a time where the EPA's regulatory power has been hotly debated, Schwarzenegger breaks party ranks to voice his enduring support for the Clean Air Act.   His op-ed is below:

I love American success stories. Start-up companies that change the marketplace, inventors who create new technologies, and, of course, immigrants who make it big in Hollywood. That's why I love the Clean Air Act, one of the most successful laws in American history. Over the last 40 years, it has made our air dramatically cleaner, saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and substantially boosted our economy.

In 1968, I came to California and didn't know why my eyes were constantly filling with tears. I quickly learned about smog and bad-air days. These days, the air is much cleaner thanks to the Clean Air Act and technologies that resulted from it, such as catalytic converters on cars and particle traps on diesel exhaust. Those toxic smog days motivated everyone to act.

Today, I have tears in my eyes again, but for a very different reason. Some in Washington are threatening to pull the plug on this success. Since January, there have been more than a dozen proposals in Congress to limit enforcement of our clean-air rules, create special-interest loopholes, and attempt to reverse scientific findings. These attacks go by different names and target different aspects of the law, but they all amount to the same thing: dirtier air.

This is not an abstract political fight. If these proposals are passed, more mercury, dioxins, carbon pollution and acid gases will end up in the air our kids breathe. More Americans will get sick, end up in the hospital, and die from respiratory illness. We would be turning our backs on the sound science and medical advice that has reduced air pollution from large industrial sources by more than 70% since the late 1960s, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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The rules that are under attack put common-sense limits on dangerous chemicals in our air. Mercury, which after 20 years is finally being regulated from power plants, is a dangerous neurotoxin that damages brain development and lowers IQs in young children. Acid gases, like hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride, are associated with bronchitis and asthma, according to the American Lung Association. And dioxins and other pollutants cause cancer.

Hobbling the Clean Air Act will also hurt the economy. More air pollution causes more sick days, and thus hurts productivity. And, as I know from California's experience, clean-air rules have led to innovation and new technologies that have created hundreds of thousands of new jobs and billions in clean-energy investment.

Congress should not substitute political calculations for scientific and medical facts. According to a recent poll by the American Lung Association, 69% of Americans believe that EPA scientists should set health standards, rather than members of Congress. Yet one proposal under consideration would actually overturn a finding by EPA experts on the impact of carbon pollution on our atmosphere. Another would prevent government scientists from even gathering information on the amount of this pollution going into the air.

I began my public service by promoting fitness for kids, so I know how much parents worry about keeping their children healthy. We choose the right foods, encourage exercise, wear bike helmets, and keep them away from danger whenever we can. But there are some threats, like air pollution, that we can't protect them from on our own. We can't tell our kids not to breathe or control what toxins blow into our air from neighboring states.

For this, we rely on our nation's clean-air laws.

I'm proud that it was a fellow California Republican, President Richard Nixon, who signed the Clean Air Act into law in 1970. In 1990, the act was strengthened by huge bipartisan majorities in Congress. Let's keep that bipartisan tradition alive to make sure no more tears are shed over the clean air that the American people deserve.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, was governor of California from 2003 to 2011.

For the past month Living on Earth has been featuring stories from our Planet Harmony. They’ve broadcast reports from all over the country about communities often under-represented in environmental decision-making. Well, today, one of our Planet Harmony reporters has some thoughts on the importance of bringing more voices to environmental conversation.

HAHESY: Hey this is Mwende Hahesy and I’m sitting here next to the Pacific Ocean on Westcliffe Beach, in Santa Cruz, California. I don’t consider myself an environmentalist; it’s just the state of the environment has a lot to do with the health of my family and friends. The health of a community can be measured through the health of its environment. And to me, no other community lives up to this more than the one I grew up in.

I was raised in the San Joaquin Valley in Central California. When you drive through the Valley, as we like to call it, you pass through an endless succession of alfalfa fields, orange trees and dairies. It’s a pastoral piece of Americana. On the flip side, the Valley has some of the highest rates of obesity and childhood asthma in the country. And these rates are even worse for people of color. So then I have to take a step back and remind myself to give things a second look.

When I was a kid, I had severe asthma. But I was hardly a special case. I remember my daily midday asthma treatment at school. I would stand in line outside the nurse’s office and wait with at few other kids who were almost exclusively Latino.

We never really thought much of it; this was simply a fact of life. But the older I got, the more this general acceptance bugged me. The Valley was my home but it made me sick. Now that I’m older I see all the signs around me: the thick layer of smog on the horizon and the crop dusters that drop pesticides on fields near housing developments. Valley residents are unhealthy because of these very things. Why wasn’t anyone angry?

Planet Harmony has created a space. Now we can follow underrepresented communities’ struggles and accomplishments in environmental and health issues across the country and the globe.

YOUNG: Mwende Hahesy reports for Planet Harmony. Planet Harmony welcomes all and pays special attention to issues affecting communities of color. Check out more from Mwende and contribute your own thoughts, ideas and stories at My Planet Harmony dot com. That’s My Planet Harmony dot com.

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California’s Department of Public Health says less half of African Americans in the state eat enough fruits and vegetables—often because fresh produce simply isn’t available where they live. A farmer’s market in LA’s predominantly black Crenshaw neighborhood is working to make fresh foods more available, but they are finding that if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. Planet Harmony’s King Anyi Howell reports and Host Regina Campbell-Malone follows up Harambee Farmer, Larry Williamson, about his vision for a healthier inner city.

[SOUNDS OF STREET/MUSIC]

ANYI: Out here at the Harambee Farmer’s Market, its crazy empty! I’ve been here since maybe 12—it’s almost 2:30—there’s nobody here, I maybe saw one person go get some fruits.

[SOUNDS OF INTERSECTION AT CRENSHAW/SLAUSON]

ANYI: It’s an average Saturday morning at the Harambee Farmer’s market. Baskets of bright red tomatoes and strawberries settled next to fresh picked greens and okra all compete for attention in the area saturated with fast food chains and lesser known grease depots.

[SOUNDS OF INTERSECTION AT CRENSHAW/SLAUSON]

ANYI: The market is at the busy intersection of Crenshaw and Slauson, at a former Fire Station tucked between a bank and an auto paint shop. Michelle Guillaume lives in South Central. She says the farmer’s market is in the perfect location to attract customers.

GUILLAUME: It’s where commercial business meets hustlers and street vendors and with Crenshaw Boulevard being what it is, just everybody—it’s a main vein in our city, so you get some of everybody and we all mingle on these corners.

ANYI: Guillaume buys fresh strawberries to add to lemonade, green onions and lettuce for her taco truck that operates right outside the market. Nearby a customer is buying oranges.

MAN: We have oranges three for a dollar.

ANYI: But apart from them there are very few shoppers. The African Firefighters in Benevolence Association or AFIBA that organizes the Market is really trying to attract more customers and expand the market, which currently only has seven stands. They’ve hung a large banner advertising the market’s hours for the thousands of cars that drive by daily; they telephone local residents, and they also try to lure customers with a live band.

[SOUNDS OF LIVE JAM BAND]

ANYI: But even that doesn’t seem to be working. The market remains largely empty. Shoppers pass the market by and head for the neon-emblazed, Ralph’s Supermarket. I walked across the street to ask a Ralph’s customer, Ladine, why she didn’t come to the Market.

LADINE: Mostly everybody buys their produce here because they want to go to one place to get everything you need.

ANYI: The big supermarket may not have quality produce but it is convenient and familiar. While the farmer’s market remains hidden in plain sight.

LADINE: I didn’t know about the market and now that I know I will go.

ANYI: Vegetables at Harambee go straight from the ground to the community. The food here provides nutrition that is missing from the fast food chains and bodegas that line these streets.

ROBINSON: Today we have grapes.

ANYI: That’s vendor, Etea Robinson.

ROBINSON: We have corn grown in the Williamson farm up in Merced.

ANYI: The lack of customers puts Farmers like Larry Williamson, who labor to make fresh produce available to the black community, in a tough spot.

WILLIAMSON: I could probably run this, struggle along for another five years.

ANYI: Williamson is a native of Los Angeles, but farms about a four-hour drive away in Merced, California. He told me that he is in a unique position to help provide healthy options to the African-American community.

WILLIAMSON: I don’t think that I’m gonna never garner the Italian Market, the Hispanic market or the Asian Market. I’ve made it very clear that I’m in a better position to help the black market because we’ve always had the argument from the ‘80s to the ‘90s that the food that comes to our stores is old; it’s tainted and all these things.

ANYI: His farm grows 150 to 200 thousand dollars worth of produce annually but he has to give away most of his unsold crops or feed them to the chickens and goats that graze on the farm, so he barely turns a profit. However, Williamson keeps coming back to the farmer’s market. He’s committed to providing competitively priced healthy alternatives to the cheap junk food that’s so common here. For Larry it’s about more than just green, he has a vision.

WILLIAMSON: I have enough land and seeds that I can make probably an extra 20 to 30 thousand dollars and put it in my pocket and be totally satisfied but that’s not my goal, that not my objective. My goal is to in the next five years I want to own 100 acres and lease 1,000 acres. With that amount of land, I can feed every black family in California!

ANYI: And maybe Williamson’s enthusiasm is starting to catch on. Traffic at Harambee is slowly picking up. The people who organize the market have added more regular activities like live music and self defense workshops. They also accept WIC vouchers. With the help of farmers like Larry Williamson and the AFIBA center that supports the market, Harambee may slowly start to shift inner city eating trends. Drop by if you are ever in LA on a Saturday afternoon.

[SOUNDS OF HARAMBEE MUSIC]

ANYI: Let me get some of these grapes! For Planet Harmony and Living on Earth, I’m King Anyi Howell

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