Clean energy is necessary for a healthy society

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I have dedicated my career to healthy living and disease prevention, specifically the prevention of cognitive decline diseases such as dementia. For years I have been telling patients, family and friends to stay healthy by eating well, socializing, learning new things and exercising. But what I realized is that none of that matters if we aren’t living in a healthy environment with clean air and water.

Americans have a right to clean air and water in our communities to ensure we can maintain healthy lives, which is why I am calling on our elected officials and presidential candidates to enact policies that lead to a clean energy economy with at least 50 percent clean energy by 2030.

It’s simple. Clean energy is how we keep our state, and our nation, healthy and thriving for years to come. The pollution that fuels climate change poses serious risks to the health and well-being of our families. To emphasize the Pope’s message from last week, we must take action now before it is too late.

The effects of climate change are impacting our health, from heat stroke to asthma and other respiratory illnesses, especially the most vulnerable in our society — children, the elderly and communities of color. Every day we fail to take action is one that puts our families and communities at risk. Climate change is more than an environmental issue — it is a human health issue and we must take action now to protect the most vulnerable and our common home. To protect our individual health, we must protect the health of our environment.

Creating a healthy, clean environment with clean energy also creates good-paying jobs for Iowa’s families.

Iowa is already a leader in clean energy with wind and solar booming in the state. Wind energy provides over 6,000 jobs in Iowa and generates about 27 percent of our electricity. In fact, Gov. Branstad stated earlier this fall that Iowa’s wind energy production is expected to grow to 40 percent in the next five years. This means “Iowa could produce enough wind energy by 2030 to achieve complete energy independence and export excess energy to other U.S. states.” Wind energy is just the start, solar energy is showing exciting potential across the state as well.

I spend my life helping people stay healthy physically and mentally. Now it’s time for us to come together and help our planet stay healthy as well. Join me in calling on candidates to create plans for a clean energy future. We must achieve 50 percent clean energy by 2030 if we want to maintain healthy lifestyles and leave behind a stronger, cleaner world.

• Dr. Yogesh Shah is a physician with the Des Moines University Memory Clinic and Associate Dean of Global Health

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