We hope that you enjoyed a meaningful Earth Day. As clean air advocates, we know that we must fight for climate action each and every day of the year with all hands on deck. To shine a light on the impact of air quality and climate change on Indigenous people’s health, we partnered with the National Tribal Air Association to develop a new Air Quality in Indigenous Communities report in time for Earth Day. In the spirit of fighting for Earth (every) Day, we invite you to explore our online petitions, including this petition to Members of Congress asking them to support funding for environmental justice and Tribal air programs.
EARTH DAY AROUND THE COUNTRY
For their Earth Day 2021 coverage, Good Morning America interviewed our Philadelphia-based field organizer, Brooke Petry, about what motivates her climate activism. Brooke shared her journey as a clean air advocate – from starting out as a volunteer for Moms Clean Air Force five years ago to being hired as a Pennsylvania organizer last year. Much of Brooke’s passion stems from her years managing her daughter’s asthma during Philadelphia’snumerous unhealthy air quality days: “To have to weigh decisions like that is just something you don’t want to imagine, that your kids can’t run and play with other kids because the air in the neighborhood is too dangerous to breathe. And there are so many parents who are facing these decisions and challenges.” Today, Brooke has transformed that fear into action by recruiting other parents to advocate with her: “I’ve seen legislators in meetings with moms and kids be moved to tears by some of the stories folks are telling about why they’re there and why they want their story to matter to legislators.” This profile also pays homage to our director and co-founder, Dominique Browning, who in 2011 “wanted to move the conversation among moms from talking about which household products were safest to use, to talking about lobbying for policy changes that would better protect their families.”
Elizabeth Hauptman, our Michigan field organizer, was a featured contributor in an Earth Day opinion spread in her local newspaper, The Livingston Daily. Weighing in with a mother’s perspective, Elizabeth gives voice to what it means to fight for climate change in a state experiencing warmer winters and hotter summers. Speaking of Lake Michigan, Elizabeth says, “[I]t will be harder to pass down this same magic to my son and his family if our lakes continue to warm faster than the world’s oceans.” Elizabeth offers ways to take climate action, including asking the state’s elected leaders to champion President Biden’s new American Jobs Plan to “deliver jobs and environmental justice, which resonates even here in the auto-industry state.” The plan supports the total electrification of our transportation sector, the largest source of carbon pollution in the country.
Also for Earth Day, NBC News asked Dominique Browning, our director and co-founder, about her favorite pick for an outstanding book on climate change. Dominique chose New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson for its ability to combine a “worst-case climate scenario with the hope that the most difficult times can bring out the best in people — a message all-too-relevant today.” The novel imagines a partially-flooded New York City in 100 years and centers around a group of grieving New Yorkers as they confront rising sea levels.
Our Tampa Bay-based organizer in Florida, Gabriella Da Silva, joined Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla) and others on Earth Day to introduce legislation that would expand solar energy options for low-income families. National Public Radio station in Tampa Bay, WUSF, reported on this press conference, noting that Gabriella emphasized the many burdens faced by low-income communities when it comes to air pollution: “Now let’s throw extreme heat, hurricanes, flooding and sea level rise into the mix all while trying to keep the lights on. As climate impacts worsen, it is imperative that we implement more resilient and efficient infrastructure that will provide equal access to underserved communities.” In related coverage, Rep. Castor thanked Moms Clean Air Force and others for their support of this legislation as reported by Florida Daily.
This Earth Day, Univision Arizona held its first-ever televised town hall focused on climate change at which Columba Sainz, our Arizona field organizer, joined Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and other climate champions for the hour-long segment. Columba spoke about the dire need to address climate injustice for the sake of all families, but especially families on the frontlines of pollution. As a mother who handles asthmatic conditions in her family, Columba touted the benefits of electrifying our school buses and other vehicles from a public health perspective: “We need to electrify our school buses because our Latino and communities of color are the most affected by the exhaust which is both carcinogenic and linked to an increased risk of developing asthma.” [Translated from the original Spanish]
With Earth Day as a backdrop, our Nevada field organizer Jennifer Cantley and several other leaders came together to draw attention to the potential environmental consequences of extracting lithium from an area known as Thacker Pass. Reno News & Review spoke with Jennifer to learn more about the group’s efforts to shed light on a deeply flawed community consultation process: “The environmental impact statement…wasn’t adequate and the process [for commenting] was rushed. The company says it did send out a public comment notice, but they did it during a pandemic and people were focused on the immediate health and financial concerns related to the pandemic.”
CLEANING UP OUR SCHOOL BUSES
The Associated Press quoted Trisha Dello Iacono, our national field and legislative manager, about the need for federal investment in children’s health by way of converting the country’s fleet of diesel-powered school buses to electric vehicles as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s American Jobs Plan. As Trisha says, “It is high time that the millions of children exposed to lung-harming diesel pollution during their commute to and from school be afforded a clean and safe ride.”
LIFTING UP COMMUNITIES OF COLOR
For comment on President Biden’s pledge to cut emissions in half by 2030, The New York Times spoke to Heather McTeer Toney, our senior advisor. Heather expressed concern that the clean energy transition could leave communities of color behind unless the Administration ensures that resources go to neighborhoods needing it most. Recalling the last economic boom: “Where were the Black and brown and Indigenous communities? They weren’t part of the conversation. They weren’t at the table.” As for the efforts of the fossil fuel industry to deploy scare tactics about clean energy, Heather said: “They really want Americans to believe there’s going to be a hard stop, that you’re going to go to your local Walmart one day and you’re not going to be able to get gas. That’s not how this is going to happen.”
The Nevada Independent spoke to our Nevada organizer about legislation AB380 to transition away from natural gas. Cinthia argues that the public health consequences of burning natural gas were ignored in a recent hearing on the matter, noting that Latinos are more likely to suffer asthma attacks than white counterparts. Cinthia also said that she understood the pushback on this legislation, “…but it’s important to have conversations with our communities about how we are moving away from the usage of natural gas and more toward electric — and it’s going to require a lot of work.”
Writing in Motherly, our national field manager Tonya Howard Calhoun explains how climate change harms Black maternal health: “We know that massive underlying health disparities in our country — such as maternal deaths — reflect our long history of racial injustice. Many are also caused or worsened by air pollution and other environmental factors. Maternal mortality is no exception.” At the same time, Tonya makes clear that we can pursue public policy that addresses this scandalous reality, including to give support to the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021. “The good news is that we don’t have to wait one more minute to protect pregnant mothers from the impacts of climate pollution.”
Our Denver-based field organizer Shaina Oliver is no stranger to the effects of environmental racism on communities of color. As a Dinéh Navajo mom of four who struggles with asthma and lives in a polluted area, Shaina recently spoke with ABC News about what it’s like to live next to the Suncor oil refinery in a predominantly Black and brown community: “Shaina Oliver’s asthma flares up on cold days. Her kids can’t play outside, often due to the heavy air pollution surrounding their community. ‘It becomes a burden because you have to buy more air filters for each room,’ she said. ‘And it’s not really possible for everybody to do air filters in every room.’ ‘I think dealing with asthma is a form of environmental violence and racism on our people because we’re the ones being impacted with the air pollution,’ she said. ‘We’re the ones being segregated into these sacrifice zones.’”
In related coverage, Shaina was part of a victorious collective effort to demand accountability for pollution emanating from the Suncor refinery, as reported by Colorado Public Radio.
Truthout profiled Shaina for an article on the startling fact that 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe in polluted air every day. In sharing her story of confronting the intergenerational legacy of contamination, Shaina notes that: “Our people know these health disparities are caused by contamination related to the industries that have encroached into our reservations where our treaty rights are abused.”
DeSmog Blog interviewed Heather McTeer Toney about a new NAACP report titled “Fossil Fuel Foolery” that reveals a long list of deceptive tactic that the fossil fuel industry uses to conceal damage to communities of color. Commenting on the report’s finding, Heather said: “[I]t I a must-read for any group or organization engaged in environmental/climate work, especially in or around Black, brown and Indigenous communities.”
Latino Rebels Radio interviewed Cinthia Zermeño Moore, Nevada field organizer and EcoMadres co-lead, for their recent episode devoted to environmental justice. Cinthia talks about her family history, her advocacy work in Nevada, and why making advocacy accessible for all is a top priority. For Cinthia, it’s imperative that Nevada’s Latino community be informed: “We’re all working together to make sure that people have information that they need….to bridge the gap between the effects of climate change [and climate action].”
Cinthia also spoke to El Tiempo about the disproportionate impact of air pollution and climate change on Latino communities: “Latino children are 40% more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino white children. When thinking about climate action, it is important to consider the disparities that exist in our community, and for us to be more inclusive when coming up with solutions. We cannot continue to have conversations about climate issues without considering and making climate justice a priority.”
COVID-19 EXPOSES NEED FOR AIR MONITORING
Opining in the Reno Gazette Journal, our Nevada field organizer Jennifer Cantley opens up about the experience of being a COVID-19 “long hauler” whose diagnosis prompted yet another diagnosis: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Jennifer shares how this double whammy is giving new meaning to her advocacy to expand air monitoring in her state. “With another allergy and wildfire season right around the corner in Nevada, we need more real-time information on air quality in Nevada for those who suffer from asthma or now are COVID-19 long-haulers. When going outside for 15 minutes can quite literally be the difference between a trip to the hospital or not, we need robust state and federal air quality monitoring and the infrastructure investments to support these systems.” Jennifer calls on her elected leaders to reduce air pollution and climate change through national action: “The long-term health of tens of thousands of COVID long-haulers like me is quite literally hinging on our ability to provide clean air for all, in a climate-stable future. It is critical that we seize this moment to go big not only for our generation and our children, but for those to come after us..”
ALL OF GOVERNMENT — AND EVERY LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT
As reported by Reuters, our senior advisor Heather McTeer Toney was one of several environmental group representatives to recently meet with the U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo to discuss ways to leverage the corporate tax system to help address climate change. As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s “All of Government” approach to climate, the Treasury is mandated with developing a climate finance plan. Heather has been an outspoken critic of how corporations’ failure to disclose the risks of climate change has serious impacts on investors and on communities of color.
In Pennsylvania, Moms Clean Air Force put pressure on Gov. Tom Wolf to close a loophole in the state’s pending methane emissions rule — or risk his climate legacy. As The Center Square reports, the mounting pressure was capped off with a sponsored television spot featuring some of our members, which captures why methane pollution —the second largest contributor to climate change behind carbon — cannot go unchecked.
SUNDRY SHOUT OUTS
- Inside EPA analyzed a letter from Moms Clean Air Force and others pushing President Biden to pursue a “clear and aggressive schedule” for the EPA to curb climate and pollutants from power plants. Article is behind a paywall.
- The industry publication Superfund Report quoted a statement from our director and co-founder Dominique Browning on the American Jobs Act.
- Heather McTeer Toney, our senior advisor, was interviewed for a Broken Ground podcast series on women in the South leading on environmental progress.
- Erandi Trevino, our Texas field organizer, sat down for an interview with the One Breath Partnership in Houston for this Q&A.
- Jennifer Cantley is profiled in Solutions magazine on her activism and the need to electrify our school buses.
- Latina Moms gives props to our former EcoMadres lead Gaby Rivera for tirelessly defending our planet.
- One of our Missouri-based supermoms is a finalist for teacher of the year in her state.