By Maria Blaesing
MN350 Communications Intern

All people, no matter the color of their skin, their background, their salary, or where they live, have a right to breathe uncontaminated air. Where I grew up in Munster, Indiana, windy days would carry in air pollution from nearby coal-fired plants. On certain days, the factory emissions would react in the air to cover nearby towns in a harmful smog. While this may sound shocking, this was my reality growing up, and Indiana leads the nation in toxic pollution emitted per square mile. Four of the top pollution facilities can be found in my home region of Northwest Indiana. These industrial facilities are able to continue releasing harmful emissions by taking advantage of the poor pollution control and regulations in place.

Where I was raised, I was far enough from industry that I didn’t have to worry as much about the air I was breathing. But for people who live only a few miles away, air pollution is an ever-present threat to their health. But where someone lives should not determine their health. It’s time for us to work together to protect our shared air by holding corporations accountable.

When I was growing up in Munster, my father worked in steel mills in the nearby town of Gary. While at one time the production of steel in Gary led to rapid growth, by the 1990s the city was rapidly declining as it failed to compete against overseas steel. Since Gary was largely dependent on this one industry, when the success of steel declined, so did the city’s jobs and population. However, the steel industry contributed more to the Lakefront region than jobs – it also brought contaminated waste and air pollution into the community.

Of course, these concerns are not unique to Northwest Indiana. Wealthy corporations continue to value profit over protecting families’ well-being. Similar to Gary, cities across the country frequently build polluting facilities in areas where people have less influence and political voice to stir opposition. In Minnesota, for example, one of Xcel Energy’s nuclear plants – and 29 dry casks of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel – currently sit a mere 600 yards from tribal members’ homes. The exposure of low-income and historically marginalized communities to environmental harms cannot stand. It’s critical that we all come together against polluting, profit-seeking industries.

Placing responsibility on corporations is the first step in protecting the communities we love. When we view the issues of environmental degradation as far away and ignore problems that don’t directly affect us, we’re weakening our power to affect change. The only way to create a safer, more just life for all is to work together with those who are most immediately impacted by climate change. At MN350, we encourage you to join one of our teams. From Big Oil’s Big Deception to the People’s Climate and Equity Plan, we can shift the balance of power away from wealthy corporations who care more about money than our environmental health. Together we will hold them responsible.


Maria Blaesing is a communications intern at MN350 working with the Policy Action Team. She is a geography major at Macalester College and is interested in studying public policy and urban planning.