i’m here to testify


I usually write about making things but today I’m writing about doing things.

Yesterday I testified in one of three public hearings around the US with a group of EPA officials who are considering reducing the amount of pollution that can be released into the air by power plants across the country. As a lifelong asthmatic, I wanted, just once, to tell them how bad air affects my life and my health. I brought all of the medications I take as well as the nebulizer I use for respiratory infections. I thought it would be a good visual and I think it was.

I was given five minutes to say what had been on my mind for as long as I can remember. It was a cathartic experience and one that I highly recommend. I prepared my statement the night before and practiced to make sure I was within the time limit. I kept it as brief as possible because I wanted them to get my message that their actions have a profound effect on my life and that I believe that clean air is a human right, pure and simple. My voice cracked with emotion more times than I wish but I was glad that I didn’t actually cry — although I was really close! I do a ton of public speaking but never about something that is so personal.

I have to say that I was prepared for bored bureaucrats who would be filling our their expense reports while I spoke but in fact, all but one maintained full eye contact with me for the entire time I spoke. You could have heard a pin drop in that room. The Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago has put my testimony on their website should you want to read what I said.

I’ve participated in hearings in my neighborhood and used to be on the Community Design Commission in my town, but it was really the first time I asked for something directly on a national level. It felt good to be participating in our democracy. I told my doctor what I had done and she said, “Thank you.”

Now if someone could get me five minutes with those knuckleheads in the tobacco industry, I’d be a happy woman.

4 thoughts on “i’m here to testify

  1. Wow. What powerful testimony. I knew you had asthma but I had no idea it had affected your publishing schedule. You are such an inspiration. Thank you for speaking up to protect us all.

  2. Bravo–Writing very short talks is the hardest kind of writing! It’s good that the government is doing hearings at various locations and not just in Washington, and I’m glad you took this opportunity to speak up.

  3. What an interesting way that I got to this post…
    A Canadian blogger referenced your hand-quilted modern quilt post- I love hand-piecing but haven’t made a full quilt yet.
    I read that post, then clicked around your site, so cool and I’m looking forward to your new book to see what I can try to make by hand!
    Then, reading backwards brings me to this post. My day job is as a legal researcher for a Canadian law firm, we’re fighting for better air quality against a power plant as well. Good on you for speaking up, and showing the day-to-day aspects of poor air quality. Oftentimes I think governments (and the courts) get caught up on the acute issues – how many people die every year. Which is significant of course, but I feel the chronic cases are so much worse. Living a life with impaired breathing is impossible to imagine unless you’re experiencing it. Or, in your case, demonstrate it to others.
    I hope your testimony garners some change in your community. The EPA just released a huge (3000 page?) document indicating that particulate matter is an significant issue. I hope that your testimony was a part of that!
    All the best.

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