Meet Fall Intern Vaishali Nijampatnam

Meet Fall Intern Vaishali Nijampatnam

The fall semester is in full swing at Alabama’s colleges and universities and we’ve got some awesome new interns to introduce! Vaishali Nijampatnam and Kenneth Paik will be working with Gasp this fall through UAB’s Academic Small Business Alliance internship program. First, we’d like you to meet Vaishali, a junior at UAB majoring in biomedical engineering.

What is your major at UAB and why did you choose it?

In high school, I saw a video about a dog with 2 prosthetic legs and watched its before and after prosthetics life and saw how life changing and happy the dog was. I really wanted to find a major that can teach me the foundations for that type of career. Hence, why I chose biomedical engineering as my major. I chose it because the combination of engineering and medicine is impactful for all life forms whether it’s a bird, elephant, a dog, or a person biomedical engineering can be applied to everything.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I will be applying to grad school.

What is your dream job?

My dream job is to travel around the world while making prosthetic limbs for handicapped animals.

What do you hope to learn while volunteering with Gasp?

I hope to learn how a non-profit runs and maybe work with a non profit in the future. My project is to build an air monitor so I really hope to create one and aspire Gasp to use the air monitor at events and encourage the public to make their own.

Why is our mission to reduce air pollution important to you?

Air pollution keeps increasing every day and someone needs to remind the governments and public that if we continue polluting the air eventually the air will become toxic meaning the next generations won’t be able to breath normally.

What is your favorite food?

Mochi Ice cream and gulab jamun. Honestly I love food and don’t have a favorite because they are all so tasty!

What are your hobbies?

I like to travel, hike, watch movies, workout, but my ultimate favorite thing to do is sleep. The best days, to me, are the days when I get sleep in!

Who or what are your influences?

My family members are my influencers. My parents brought my sister and me to a new country without any one to count on. They had no one but themselves to push through the hardships and I truly am grateful for their sacrifices. My sister is also my motivator, best friend, and (sometimes) the most annoying person I’ve ever met. But without her and my parents, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

What are some other fun facts about yourself?

  1. I’m a Canadian citizen.
  2. My favorite animal is a panda.
  3. I once booked a plane ticket to Spain, then 6 hours later cancelled the ticket.
Gasp & Sierra Club Praise Rep. Terri Sewell for Opposing ‘Smoggy Skies Act’

Gasp & Sierra Club Praise Rep. Terri Sewell for Opposing ‘Smoggy Skies Act’

This is how democracy ought to work.

Last year, Rep. Terri Sewell voted in favor of the so-called Ozone Standards Implementation Act. Fortunately, after House approval, the legislation stalled in the Senate and wasn’t signed into law.

This year, Rep. Sewell listened to her constituents and opposed the legislation when it was again brought up for a vote last week.

While the bill did ultimately pass in the House (229 to 199), we want to thank Rep. Sewell for exemplifying the best characteristics of our most responsive Members of Congress: listening, learning, and adjusting accordingly. Rep. Sewell learned about the harmful effects of ozone pollution, and this year made a more informed vote on the legislation. That’s what elected officials are supposed to do.

What’s the bill that Rep. Sewell voted against? A better name for the legislation would be the “Smoggy Skies Act.” By delaying the implementation of new science-based ozone standards, this bill is nothing but a giveaway to big polluters.

Ozone pollution is one of the most common types of air pollution in Alabama. It’s dangerous — deadly even — for children, the elderly, communities of color, and folks with lung and heart disease. Smog is gross. Exposure to smog can cause wheezing and shortness of breath, asthma and heart attacks, low birth weight and even premature death.

For decades, the Clean Air Act has protected Americans from the harmful health effects of air pollution. It is legislation that has helped to clean up our air. Overwhelming and bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress passed it.

Through technological innovation, the Clean Air Act has resulted in significant reductions in harmful emissions. Healthy air is a human right, and ensuring our air is not polluted should be one of any lawmaker’s top priorities.

The Smoggy Skies Act will now go to the U.S. Senate. It would delay life-saving, science-based standards protections. By kicking compliance down the road, the bill would give polluters permission to continue to pollute our air. Millions of American lives are at risk.

We’re glad Rep. Sewell voted no on the Smoggy Skies Act. We are now asking Sen. Richard Shelby and Sen. Luther Strange to do the same if and when it comes up for a vote in the Senate.

Michael Hansen is the Executive Director of Gasp, a Birmingham-based healthy air advocacy organization.

Stephen Stetson is a Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.

(Photo courtesy of The Birmingham Times)

Meet Summer Intern Sara Jones

Meet Summer Intern Sara Jones

What are you studying at Birmingham Southern College?

I have not yet chosen a major, since I am hesitant on rushing into a career option without being sure of whether or not I would enjoy it. I am currently taking classes in order to figure out what career I would enjoy; however, I have discovered that I would like to focus specifically on human rights, and am studying on the different issues and concerns surrounding this topic as I go through school.

What is your dream job?

My dream job would be to travel the world investing in and educating others on their rights (and hopefully be paid for it!) Foreign cultures fascinate me, and it is often true that the best way to learn from them is to go live in these areas that have such different practices. I hope that I will eventually be able to explore and learn from countries over in the Middle East and Asia, although where I would primarily like to work and experience culture is in Central/South America.

What do you hope to learn while interning with Gasp?

It is my desire to see that I learn more about Birmingham on a local, more intimate level; since I have not had much interaction with the area prior to my college experience, I would like to become familiar with the city that I now call home. Performing outreach in my internship would achieve both this and introducing me to the approaches communities take to address specific concerns, such as political policy and education. I am also hoping to see how Birmingham functions on an activism level through coordinating with other human rights organizations, as well as how people respond to information about different rights and violations that are occurring within their area.

Why is our mission to reduce air pollution important to you?

The necessity of clean air for everyone boils down to three arguments: human rights, environmental protection, and technological advancement. We citizens shouldn’t have to worry about whether the air in our neighborhoods, homes, or workplaces will have detrimental effects on our bodies simply because we breathe it; it is within our right to demand that the industrial practices of companies not physically

invade our lives and cause us harm- long term or immediate. In addition to this expectation, it is also important to recognize that clean air, like clean water, is a commodity on which all living things rely. It is possible that we could damage and pollute these renewable resources for several years, should we increase our abuse of them.

Lastly, the drive for creating clean air and a clean environment is also a drive for self-sustainable technologies and technological growth overall. Decreasing our reliance on non-renewable sources of energy allows us to find ways of sourcing energy locally, with more stable machinery due to the fact that the energy from renewable sources replenishes itself and needs little to no input in order to generate it. Therefore, environmental conservation is not only necessary for the protection of our planet, but also for forcing us to become innovative and imaginative in how we redevelop our old methods in addition to creating some new ones.

What is your favorite food?

Food overall is one of my favorite things on the planet, but a dish I enjoy in particular is homemade seafood gumbo. I grew up only two hours from New Orleans, so many of the same flavors and recipes ended up where I live with delicious results- I have yet to come across a terrible cup of gumbo from my hometown!

What are your hobbies?

Most of my hobbies include creative practices, such as painting, writing, and singing. I also enjoy reading, and for sports I prefer swimming over anything else. I have a tendency to become fidgety if I spend an extended amount of time not doing anything, so I try to find personal projects that will keep me occupied for a good amount of time.

Who or what are your influences?

A large portion of my influence comes from my parents, who have worked for everything they now have without taking any shortcuts or making any excuses to reach the point in their careers that they are currently at. I also find strong influence from literary sources, with characters and authors that impose strong values, as well as several historical figures, such as Theodore Roosevelt and Joan of Arc (two of my favorites!)

What are some other fun facts about yourself?

I used to be an avid actress, and performed throughout most of my secondary education as well as assisted in two shows during my time in college. The last show I acted in was a competition theater performance of Ralph Roister Doister, where my theater group made it to state competition and I won two awards for best supporting actress. I have also had the opportunity to travel to two countries: France and Mexico!

Gasp Responds to Corruption and Bribery Charges Related to North Birmingham

Gasp Responds to Corruption and Bribery Charges Related to North Birmingham

The following is a statement from Gasp Executive Director Michael Hansen regarding corruption & bribery charges related to North Birmingham:

I was stunned to learn the extent of the conspiracy involving former-Rep. Oliver Robinson, Balch & Bingham, and Drummond Company to block EPA’s efforts to remediate contamination in northern Birmingham and Tarrant. We learned via Twitter that meetings with Robinson and Gasp representatives were recorded and shared with Drummond and their attorneys.

Gasp has been working in north Birmingham neighborhoods for years. In 2014, we petitioned the EPA to investigate whether or not additional cleanup was necessary in the Inglenook community and city of Tarrant. Between advocating for the National Priorities List (NPL) for the 35th Avenue Site (the NPL listing would have released millions of dollars for clean up) and additional testing in the Pinson Valley Site, we’ve been at odds with some of the most powerful interests in Alabama for years now.

This case is a sad commentary on the lengths to which unchecked greed will go for a buck. People deserve to live in a healthy community, including clean air, clean water, and clean soil. Residents have been complaining of respiratory illnesses, cancers, asthma, and other diseases. Despite Birmingham’s reputation for being a hub of medical advances, there has never been a study to see how the pollution is harming the communities’ health. We know there is a higher rate of pre-term birth and lower birth weight in the areas near heavy industry.

Toxic pollution literally kills people and makes them ill. Attempts at covering up pollution and avoiding responsibility for cleaning it up are among the most egregious forms of public corruption, and it must be rooted out.

This story is not simply about corruption. It is about harm to real people. For decades, people living near ABC Coke and other polluting industries have been breathing toxic emissions and growing gardens in contaminated soil. They’ve been telling us for years that they believe their families, their children are being exposed to serious environmental hazards and that their health is suffering from it. Everyone from the polluters to politicians to regulators turned a blind eye to these concerns, claiming there is no health risk. Well, now we know why.

The folks living in impacted communities deserve answers. Who else was involved in this scheme and how long has it been going on? How deep is this conspiracy? Will others be held accountable? Why aren’t the leaders in our state condemning these actions? What recourse do the residents have now that they know powerful interests conspired to thwart community cleanup efforts?

We won’t rest until we have answers and the residents of the northern Birmingham area are protected from toxic pollution and corruption.

President Trump’s Decision to Withdraw from Paris Climate Agreement

President Trump’s Decision to Withdraw from Paris Climate Agreement

Below is a statement from Gasp Executive Director Michael Hansen on President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement:

“Pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement jeopardizes our role in the world as leaders on climate action. Global problems demand global solutions — and we cannot go it alone. Climate change is real, and it is a health issue that we cannot simply ignore.

“In Alabama this is especially perilous. We have no comprehensive plans in place to mitigate climate risks, nor have we implemented any adaptation strategies. We barely fund state agencies like ADEM — the lowest funding level per capita in the entire nation. As a result, climate solutions in Alabama are virtually non-existent.

“We lag behind other states in clean energy jobs despite ample land and abundant free fuel (namely, the sun). We rank at the bottom in energy efficiency, resulting in the highest utility bills in the country as a portion of income, which impacts poor and fixed-income households the hardest. Alabama lacks adequate water management policies in the event of droughts. Our infrastructure is not ready to handle extreme weather events, coastal flooding, and sea-level rise.

“Former Attorney General Luther Strange literally sued the EPA over climate regulations. That is what we’re up against in Alabama. We are woefully unprepared to deal with the health and environmental impacts of climate change. It is now on us to demand better policies from the our elected officials and agencies.

“Call your mayor and city council and ask them to pass 100% renewable energy standards. Call the PSC and tell them to rescind the regressive solar ‘tax. Call your state legislators and demand responsible action on climate change. There is no Planet B, so we must take action and fight for change.”