The Moving Forward Network: Port Communities in Solidarity for Clean Air and a Healthy Future

I’m writing this article from a nice fluffy bed on the twelfth floor of the Baltimore Hilton. It’s nearing the end of a long day full of lightrail excursions, informal meals with interstate colleagues, and an hours-long recap of the last year’s collective successes and challenges. As one of four Air Alliance Houston representatives at the annual meeting of the Moving Forward Network (MFN), I feel honored to once again meet with our fellows: comrades in the fight against dirty diesel, warriors in our environmental justice communities, champions for so many at-risk populations.

This is my second year to attend the MFN conference, and though I feel at ease around these like-minded individuals, I must admit that I am more than a bit intimidated by decades-worth of knowledge that I wish to soak up from my elder activists. It is truly phenomenal to hear the battle stories coming out of Southern California, New Jersey, Kansas City, et al, and their parallels to the work that we do here in Houston.

The network is, at its foundation, a community of people working to improve the health of port communities all across the United States. As you know, the Port of Houston is a major source of pride and prosperity for our great city, though these benefits do not come without cost. The health problems facing neighborhoods near the port are not unique to Houston; nearly all the cities reporting have a laundry list of harrowing statistics that include asthma, cancer, heart disease, and strokes. Directly attributed to the externalities associated with goods movement, these human-inflicted maladies can be greatly reduced, or even eradicated, once we (as a collective society) acknowledge and address their source.

Organizations from the Moving Forward Network meet once a year to share strategies and find strength in our unity. Needless to say, it is a daunting task to challenge the transgressions of big players in industry and bureaucracy; though each time I meet with these peers, my vigor is renewed and purpose regained. I know, as well as you, that the work of Air Alliance Houston, and that of our fellow public health advocates, is crucial to cultivating the kind of world in which we want to live. I look forward to the next few days — nay, the next few YEARS of interaction with this amazing network of people, and to see the fruits that continue to bear from what can only be considered a labor of love.

In solidarity for clean air and a healthy future — read more about the Moving Forward Network.