I don’t attend a lot of conferences. I don’t think much gets accomplished when hundreds of people are in a meeting.
But I sure am glad I went to Chicago to attend the North American Climate Summit. A group of mayors representing at least 60 million people gathered to talk about how they are running their cities on clean energy, saving money and growing their economies at the same time. The mayor of Knoxville Tennessee, an impressive woman, talked about supporting energy efficiency measures in low-income communities. The mayors of San Francisco, Austin, Milwaukee and Fort Collins, Colorado, talked about new transportation programs.
Meanwhile, back in DC, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is taking a different approach towards transportation. He’s attempting to reopen a loophole for America’s worst-polluting trucks. That’s right: his policy is to force our children to keep breathing in those black clouds you see belching out of truck tailpipes on the highway.
These mayors talked about so many things Scott Pruitt insists on ignoring: how initiatives to stop air pollution, climate pollution, and waste make for a better quality of life for the people they represent—and amp up their economies.
As I listened to their powerful words, my brain—and my spirit—got totally rearranged. Here’s where the action is: at home. The nitty-gritty of everyday life. At home in diverse cities around the country—around the world—where elected officials are racing forward to be leaders in a new America.
It was a spiritual shift that I badly needed. I never would have imagined that an EPA Chief would be a Chief Pollution Protector: Scott Pruitt wants to keep the neurotoxin mercury in our air, and wants a chemical industry lobbyist to run the program that gets rid of toxic chemicals. It doesn’t get more cynical and corrupt. And in the meantime, we are suffering the impact of a warming world across the country, as storms and wildfires and floods become ever more severe—and our children continue to suffer the health effects that come with denial and delay.
Thankfully, mayors across the country are ignoring the damage being done in DC. They’re running their cities in ways that make them far more attractive places to live. They know that Americans feel their right to clean air is precious—and do not want it dismantled.
And as one mayor said: “We need our moms at our backs, making sure we do things right!”
Let’s not disappoint them: Let’s echo our mayors’ demands demands for action, and call on DC to stop stalling progress. Make sure the protections that keep our families safe aren’t unraveled – starting with Pruitt’s proposal to enable dirty diesel trucks on our roads.
No one, whether Republican or Democrat, voted to Make America Dirty Again. Moms across the country are serving on sustainability committees, running for office, letting their mayors know they support their work—and demanding they keep going. As every single mayor pointed out: it is great to be doing the right thing, the moral thing—and the economically sound thing too.
Don’t believe anyone who tells you we cannot have clean air and strong economies. It is happening all around us. It is happening because of leadership. And most importantly, it is happening because of you, and the power of your voice.