This is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with Helen Gym, chair of the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Children and Youth:
What is unique about protecting Philadelphia’s resources?
Philadelphia has tremendous natural resources, but it also has significant needs. Philadelphia lies at the heart of the Delaware River Basin, the primary source of water for 15 million people in our region. We have Fairmount Park and a vibrant active environmental advocacy community. But we also are the poorest largest city in the country, with aging infrastructure, high rates of asthma, food and educational deserts and whole communities in dire need of green space.
Because of that we have to pay close attention to both protecting our existing resources as develop a hyper consciousness of access and equity for our most vulnerable communities. It challenges us to look at urban planning, consumer protection, displacement and policy at all levels.
As a parent are you worried about the effects of climate change on your children and the children of Philadelphia?
Absolutely. Climate change is already impacting children in Philadelphia and across the globe. (Tweet this) Increased poverty and climate insecurity are pushing down health outcomes for children in our city. We already have children terribly impacted by high rates of asthma and kidney stones. These problems only get worse when we do not pay attention to climate change.
Why is a bipartisan effort so important and how can these efforts be achieved in our politically polarizing culture?
If we start with a shared vision of environmental justice, organizing across diverse constituencies can lead to transformative political change. Political parties are changing and evolving. In areas where politics is not leading the way, communities have to organize first in order to make political wins.
Is there anything you’d like to share that is important for Moms Clean Air Force members to know?
As Chair of the newly-created Committee on Children and Youth, I am working to move City Council’s children and youth agenda toward the intersection of educational, environmental, and social service systems. This work is already bringing together parents, experts, and stakeholders to address the well-being of children – and by extension, all Philadelphians – across systems. Key to this however is a strong advocacy and organizing community that brings these issues to our grassroots and ensures that the people most impacted are also at the forefront of helping shape and lead policy.
Helen Gym, chair of the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Children and Youth, is a community and education leader whose work across different organizations supports the right to a quality public education for all children. As a Councilwoman, her primary concern is addressing widespread poverty in Philadelphia, particularly through an emphasis on building a quality public education system that anchors schools within communities. She will continue to push for fairer and more responsible taxation, sustainable investments in neighborhoods, environmental justice, language access and civil rights, and a focus on the long-term health and safety of Philadelphia residents.