The USC Schwarzenegger Institute hosted a special legislative briefing on the timely and compelling book, Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution at the California State Capitol. Author Beth Gardiner, Politico’s Debra Kahn, and Senator Fran Pavley headlined the event attended by the state’s leading policy experts. The discussion covered everything from the passage of the 1970 Clean Air Act to the need for federal climate change legislation.
Senator Pavley kicked off the discussion by alluding to the bipartisanship of the Clean Air Act, one of the chapters in Choked, and praised the book for “putting a face on what air pollution means.” Debra Kahn echoed those remarks and stated Choked “humanizes air pollution.”
Beth Gardiner shared that making air pollution more tangible was the reason she decided to write this book, especially after moving to London and realizing few people were giving the issue any attention. Gardiner stated the challenge in understanding the issue of air pollution can often lead to political inaction.
When asked by an audience member what climate action was needed, Gardiner responded there was a need for new climate legislation on the same scale of the influential 1970 Clean Air Act, a model many other countries imitated. Referring to the passage of the Clean Air Act, Gardiner stated legislators “saw a problem and fixed it.”
She also noted that California continued to be the world’s climate champion because of the enforceability of its laws by the state’s various agencies, a unique trait absent in many other parts of the country and the world.
In addition to the discussion, Gardiner had the chance to meet with environmental caucus leader Senator Ben Allen, California Energy Commission Chair David Hochschild, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols, and was interviewed for CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld’s podcast.