This is a guest post written by Lisa Bardack:
When I walked into the the James Senate Building in Annapolis, Maryland to join the Mama Summit, the first thing I took in were the children, from age ten down to those who had just arrived on this earth but months ago. Dressed in red Moms Clean Air Force shirts, they looked like the stars of the show. I found it immediately empowering to be in a room buzzing with conversation and preparation, full of moms intent on speaking up for a safe and viable future for all children and future generations. They don’t call it Moms Clean Air FORCE for nothing!
One of the moms I met was Liz Dahl, an associate professor of chemistry at Loyola University. She came with one of her first year students, Blythe, who is a taking Liz’s global environment class. Blythe was filled with passion, intelligence and determination – exemplifying the power and promise of youth in working to create a safe, renewable energy future.
Attendees split up to visit legislators. I went to my first legislative meeting with Trisha Dello Iacono, Regional Field Manager for MCAF. Trish is a powerhouse mom, who worked tirelessly to pull the Mama Summit together. She came with her son Logan and niece Molly. We met with Senator Brian Feldman, a true champion for renewable energy in Maryland. From the moment we walked into his office you could tell he was honored and attuned to Logan and Molly.
Before heading to the press conference, Moms Clean Air Force was recognized on the floor of the House.
The Press Conference
“We have a moral obligation to our children and future generations to protect them from the carbon pollution that is putting their health at risk and fueling extreme weather events across our country.” ~ Trisha Dello Iacono
Ling Tan, founder of Safe Grow Montgomery, spoke of her daughters’ asthma, and how it traps them indoors for code red and orange days, or when neighbors are spraying lawn pesticides into the air.
“Sometimes we get so caught up getting our children ready for the future that we forget we need to get the future ready for our children.”
Charlotte Wallace, a former pediatric nurse of 18 years, transitioned to community public health because she was tired of seeing children suffer from preventable diseases. She watched her patients struggle for each breath during their attack, “often agitated with a scared look on their little faces.” Charlotte explained that the burden of asthma is felt across the board – individuals, their families, absenteeism from schools and workplaces. It extends all the way to the city and state level, as we pay for the financial burden the healthcare industry takes on. In 2009 the incremental direct cost of asthma in Maryland alone was more than one billion dollars a year!
Amy Senz, an ordained Christian minister and mom, told the powerful story of how her community, Morrell Park, defeated a proposed CSX cargo transfer facility that would have brought 30-40 diesel trucks every hour into their residential neighborhood — a neighborhood that already suffers from some of the worst air quality in Baltimore City. Morrell Park residents stood up and said no.
“And the people who get hurt the most, who foot the dirty energy bill are the ones who can least afford it – children, the sick, the elderly, and the poor.”
Charlie Parker, executive director of Maryland Working Families, spoke about low-income families and communities of color. These communities suffer more because of the direct health, education and economic consequences associated with coal-fired and biomass power plants. They are more likely to suffer from a lifetime of negative impacts that come from prolonged exposure to smog, lead, sulfur dioxide and other toxins. Working families also suffer from direct impact from extreme weather events caused by climate change. When winter storms shut down schools and business, they lose income. She stated emphatically,
“…these same families can reap the benefits of commitment to increasing our reliance on renewable energy. Investing in wind and solar means an investment in skilled jobs and manufacturing that can create tens of thousands of jobs that can lift families out of poverty while creating cleaner air.”
Susan Cochran, president of the Maryland League of Women Voters, spoke of the League’s steadfast work on reducing air pollution caused by fossil fuel production and the need for ever-increasing use of renewable energy.
“I have a six-year-old granddaughter. I want a livable future for her and that means clean air.”
Making a Difference
I was so inspired, knowing how hard the incredible collection of effective MCAF partner organizations and their volunteers worked to pass promising climate legislation. This made the impact of the day all the more successful.
There are times when we feel that the odds are against us, as we go up against such giants as the fossil fuel and chemical industries. But days like this give me hope and incentive to continue to speak up. Days like this remind me that parents are a force to be reckoned with, that we have the power to create change, that we are creating change. Please join our community of moms, dads, grandparents, sons and daughters; ever growing in strength. Help us turn the pollution tide.