For an article written by Caitlin Gibson for the Washington Post, “How climate experts think about raising children who will inherit a planet in crisis“, I discuss how I parent as an environmental justice activist.
Please enjoy this excerpt and read the full article here:
There is resilience to be found in an honest accounting of our past, says Heather McTeer Toney, a former regional Environmental Protection Agency administrator and national field director for Moms Clean Air Force. As an environmental justice activist and African American woman, she wants to instill the perseverance and perspective of her ancestors in her 3-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter: “We’ve had no choice other than to figure out how we’re going to adapt and live,” she says. “This is not new to us.”
Sometimes, after her children have gone to bed, she and her husband talk about where they should take the kids, the places they should see quickly, before they are irreparably changed. But when she speaks to her children about what lies ahead, there is no lingering in sorrow; she is determined that they will thrive.
“My entire ancestral line is built on, ‘You have to figure out how to make it work, how to survive, because no one is going to help you,’ ” she says. “I do not want my children operating in fear. I do not want them operating in a mind-set that all hope is lost. That is not my mind-set.”
A rash of violent storms recently swept through their town in Mississippi, and when the house lost power, Toney saw her teenager immediately reach for a flashlight and her smartphone. The storms, Toney says, have become more frequent lately, more severe, and she knows this pattern will worsen in the years ahead. She watched her daughter cradling her phone and thought of what would happen when, eventually, the battery died.
Toney’s response was pragmatic: She would show her daughter where the candles were kept, and teach her to make her own light.