This letter features reporting from  “Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution” by Beth Gardner, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

Dear Mr. McDonald,

I am a fifth-grader living in your district in Georgia. The other day, I was reading an article called “Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution” by Beth Gardiner on the website The article focuses on Beth Gardiner’s book Choked. In the book, she and her daughter travel all over the world and expose the political decisions and economic forces that resulted in all these people having to breathe dirty air. The article also mentions how we take the clean air we are provided every day for granted, even though our pollution levels are doing damage today. According to the article, “Air pollution prematurely kills seven million people every year, including more than one hundred thousand Americans. It is strongly linked to strokes, heart attacks, many kinds of cancer, dementia, and premature birth, among other ailments.” The number of deaths every year and the number of health issues caused by air pollution are unacceptable, and we should do everything we can to prevent air pollution.

It may be unclear why I am writing to you. What can one person out of billions of people do? While not everyone is speaking up against air pollution, many people are, and I’m trying to do my part by writing to you. Air pollution is connected not only to my community but to pretty much every community around the world. Essentially, everyone is living in the same world and is breathing the same air. Doing nothing about pollution is already harming the world we live in; its growing effects will be costly, not just financially, but in human lives as well.

There are solutions to air pollution, although the ones listed are only a handful. One solution is to make public transportation more accessible so fewer people will use their cars, which will result in less air pollution. For example, we can try to expand the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) to the city of Cumming. Another solution is to promote the use of electric cars and even give a price incentive to people who drive them. The last solution I have in mind is inspired by what I am learning in my classroom. We are learning about electricity,  nonrenewable sources such as coal and oil, and renewable sources such as wind, sun, and water. Nonrenewable sources and renewable sources turn into current or human-harnessed electricity. We should use renewable sources exclusively because nonrenewable sources are limited and the process of turning them into electricity creates pollution.

The growing effects of air pollution can be devastating in the future. We need to be a step ahead of air pollution by making an actionable plan that will help our community and maybe even inspire others to find effective ways to combat air pollution. I hope these solutions can help contribute to solutions to save our community from air pollution.


Isha Gupta

Isha Gupta is a 5th grader in Georgia. When she's not engrossed in a new book, she can be found playing board games with her older sister, dancing, listening to music, and solving puzzles and riddles. She also loves writing short stories, especially for contests such as Young Georgia Authors. Her inspiration for these stories comes from her friends and family and the novels she reads. One passion Isha has is solving perplexing math problems as she was a part of the math team. She continues to strive to learn more each day.

Read more winning entries from the 2021 Local Letters for Global Change contest!