“Everything we learn makes us determined to fight harder.”
That’s from Dominique Browning, Moms Clean Air Force Co-Founder and Director, who spoke last week at our inaugural Climate Disruption, Air Pollution, and Young People’s Health convening at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, exclusively live-streamed by Parents. Speakers included EPA Administrator Michael Regan, White House Council of Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory, and Chelsea Clinton, plus leading researchers, policymakers, mental health experts, doctors, and environmental justice advocates.
The three-hour event provided a platform for crucial conversations about children’s health in a warming climate. Air pollution and climate change disproportionately impact children because their bodies are still developing. And young people will also bear the brunt of climate impacts that continue to worsen as time goes on.
Dominique opened the event, sharing how the work done by Moms Clean Air Force and its members has helped to create change:
“Thousands of meetings, marches, petitions, gatherings, and testimonies later—we are in a period of enormous and vital progress. In the last two years, Congress passed—and President Biden signed into law—significant, historic investments in clean, renewable energy. With Administrator Regan’s leadership, EPA is tackling deadly pollution from our transportation systems, from our energy systems—and next, we hope, from a burgeoning petrochemical industry.
“From the President’s office and throughout the administration, children’s health, and justice for all children, has been at the center of the conversation.”
This event was a continuation of that conversation and on our years of advocacy at Moms. In a series of interviews and panel discussions, speakers covered clean air policy, its impact on public health, and the importance of advocacy; the mental and physical impacts of extreme weather events, like wildfires and heat waves, and of living in communities overburdened by pollution; the dangers of plastics and petrochemicals in our everyday life; and how effective storytelling is essential to push the needle on environmental issues.
Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, took the stage with Grace Bastidas, Parents Editor-in-Chief, to talk about prioritizing climate advocacy for young children’s health. Chelsea shared what the Clinton Foundation’s early childhood initiative, Too Small to Fail, is doing to connect the dots between brain development and climate advocacy:
“We know in our current climate, the dangers are particularly acute for our youngest. We know that extreme heat is dangerous for infants and toddlers, and we also know that for many families it is still important to be outside because it may be cooler and better ventilated than accessible indoor spaces. So how can we make the outdoors more hospitable and more nurturing of brain development?
“We have to work in parallel tracks. We need to work to decarbonize our world and tackle everything we know is accelerating the climate crisis going forward—and we also need to do all that we can to help kids and families today. This needs to be done in a way that is both intentional and conveys a sense of urgency.”
EPA Administrator Regan echoed many of Clinton’s sentiments. He closed out the morning by highlighting how we can engage our youth in the climate fight and ensure those most vulnerable have a voice in developing solutions.
“As we tackle pollution and as we tackle the climate crisis, I firmly believe that we can do it while prioritizing those who are disproportionately impacted, but not at their expense. And I think that as we have mature conversations about what pollution we prioritize and what technology we pursue and how we do it, it is very important that children, minority children, environmental justice communities have a big seat at the table…
“When we strategically engage and give our children a voice, we will see a systematic change. Every child in this country deserves access to clean air and clean water, and the best messengers for that sentiment are children.”
Events like this one—that unpack the connections between environmental harms and children’s health—are critical for making progress. And as Dominique said in her closing remarks, “Progress can be slow, painstaking… Never give up.” The only way we can continue our forward momentum is to keep showing up and having these conversations.