The Coalition for Clean Air has come a long way since its formation in 1971. We have made great strides in clean air policy, public practice and education. However, none of this would have been possible were it not for the generous help and dedication of countless individuals who have made air quality issues a focal point of their lives. It is for this reason that we have created the Clean Air Hero Award – an award given to an exemplary individual who has sacrificed their time and effort for the sake of the air we breathe.
Today, we celebrate Virginia Field for her invaluable contribution to this effort and for her decades in service of cleaner air. Virginia’s fight for cleaner air began in 1970 after her children complained about not being able to breathe. Like all good mothers, she fought to protect her children and to give them the brightest future possible by immediately joining the nascent Clean Air Now. Virginia’s daughter, who has since returned to Riverside after marked improvements in air quality, had this to say about her mother’s contribution to cleaner air in southern California:
“Every day as I draw a deep breath and gaze on the mountains that stand on the horizon, I credit my mother with being one of the people who made this community a beautiful and healthful place to live and raise a family.”
Viginia would go on to serve in a number of government and nonprofit functions, including as a board member of the Coalition for Clean Air. Today, Virginia is known throughout the community of Riverside as a leader and a source of great inspiration for those wishing to join the fight for clean air. When confronted with a problem that seems insurmountable most people simply accept that there is nothing they can do to stop it. However, Virginia does not fit this mold. She knew that dedication and compassion would prevail if given the opportunity. While there have undoubtedly been obstacles and hindrances along the way, her passion and commitment ultimately has paved the way for a better future. When associates of Virginia were asked what they thought of her, the unanimous response was that of respect and praise for everything she has accomplished in this field.
Former Riverside Mayor and long-time ally Ron Loveridge said the following: “Virginia Field is an extraordinary ‘Clean Air Hero.’ For over 40 years, Field has been an advocate, consistent and effective, for clean air. Clean Air Now (CAN) was led by Field. She attended hundreds of meetings, worked with many others, and especially the Lung Association…In my judgment, there is no better citizen activist for clean air in Southern California than Virginia Field. She stayed the course. And she fought the good fight!”
To those who feel like their actions do not matter in the grand scheme of things: look around you. The skyscraper towering above you, the bridge carrying all those countless people across the river, the airplane over head – all of it was built by individuals. Ordinary people, who simply decided to create something larger than themselves, piece by piece. You probably don’t know their names, and yet they have transformed your life in ways that are difficult to comprehend. The actions of these nameless individuals are woven into the fabric of your life, forming a collage of beauty and wonder that will live on for generations to come.
It can be easy to forget just how big of an impact everyday citizens can make on creating something incredible. And sometimes, that thing being created is a healthier world. While it may not be as flashy as a skyscraper or as noticeable as an airplane, creating an ecosystem with clean, breathable air is nonetheless a critical and life-altering achievement.
Virginia Field represents the best of what we stand for here at CCA and we have no doubt that her work as an environmental activist will inspire countless others to come. On behalf of the parents whose children will be kept out of the hospital, on behalf of the wildlife that will get to see another day, on behalf of the average Californian who will live a longer life because of the progress you have helped establish — we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Here’s to you, Virginia.