Moms Clean Air Force members criss-crossed our nation’s capital this week to drive home the message that this is our moment to deliver real climate action and protect our families. The climate crisis is an emergency that demands urgent, bold action — and we parents know it. It’s why a few members stood by Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi for a press event on the urgent need to pass the climate provisions in the Build Back Better Act. At this event, the Speaker not only accepted artwork from our youngest members present, but also publicly thanked the aspiring activists for their commitment to solving our climate crisis. Next, this group joined other volunteers outside the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to meet with EPA Administrator Michael Regan at a press event where we symbolically delivered tens of thousands of public comments (from our members and far beyond) urging the agency to enact strong clean car standards. As one Bloomberg reporter put it on Twitter: “Can confirm fist bumps were exchanged.” The Administrator indeed gave fist-bumps to all eight of our youngest members. To read more about this momentous day, visit our blog post here.
BBC INTERVIEWS OUR PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY DIRECTOR
BBC World Service interviewed Public Health Policy Director Molly Rauch about the significance of updated air quality guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO). Molly explained why these new guidelines provide clear evidence of the damage air pollution inflicts on human health, at even lower concentrations than previously understood. To break down the headline, Molly summed it up succinctly: “It has been 16 years since the WHO has updated these guidelines, and there has been a lot of really important research in that time, they looked at the science and they dramatically tightened their standards, indicating that governments around the world need to do a lot more to protect people from this preventable cause of death.”
WHAT TO DO ABOUT TRAFFIC POLLUTION
Our Las Vegas-based organizer Cinthia Zermeño Moore (above) calls for zero-pollution trucks in an op-ed that she penned for the Nevada Independent. Cinthia laments how traffic pollution from the two freeways near her home in East Las Vegas is “devastating proof of just how damaging transportation can be to our health and well-being.” The pollution along with extreme heat and wildfire smoke has made parenting a challenge: “My summer turned into a series of choices between favorite activities and my son’s health. Attend a birthday party in the park and face unbearable heat? Visit the pool and risk exposure to dangerous air pollution?” In response to this environmental injustice, Cinthia calls on the EPA to lead the way by setting health-protective pollution standards for all heavy duty vehicles: “We have an opportunity to make a sizable dent in harmful traffic pollution – it’s time we take it.”
GREENING SCHOOL BUSES
High school senior and member, Severn Sienkiewicz, in Livingston, Montana has a lot to say about the experience of riding in a dirty, diesel-powered school bus year after year. Writing in the Billings Gazette, Severn recalls all the times she travelled in these buses unaware that pollution levels inside buses can be up to 10 times higher than outside: “It’s hard to believe that student athletes like myself are expected to perform at our peak after breathing in these harmful pollutants for hours on end. But fortunately, safe and healthy alternatives exist. Electric school buses are now being used in school districts across the country. They are quieter, safer, and cleaner than the diesel-powered school buses that we all know.” Severn makes a strong case for why the entire country, including rural areas, should embrace electric school buses: “[They] provide immediate public health benefits to those riding on them and considerably reduce the pollution that is fueling climate change.” As Severn says: “Congress has an opportunity to make historic investments in electric school buses through the budget reconciliation process. Our leaders must act to protect the health of all children and our planet, and if they do, I can graduate into a cleaner future.”
In a feature for the French daily La Croix entitled “In the United States, Joe Biden Wants to Green School Buses” (translated from the French), our National Field and Legislative Manager Trisha Dello Iaccono and Nevada field organizer Cinthia Zermeño Moore are quoted at length. Trisha notes that “there is an urgent need to convert our fleets to electric to stop this source of pollution” and that pollution increases the risk of respiratory illnesses, including asthma, in younger children: When children suffer from the short-term effects of pollution — nausea, headaches, irritations — it affects their ability to concentrate and learn.” Cinthia expressed concern: “Parents who cannot afford not to work, who cannot afford a car or have more than one job are the most dependent on school buses.” As the feature notes, “[Cinthia] and her asthmatic son live in eastern Las Vegas, Nevada, a predominantly Hispanic area bordered by two freeways and lacking in green space.”
CALLING OUT GREENWASHING
Our New Mexico organizer Celerah Hewes spoke to the Albuquerque Journal about the city’s plastic bag ban which, paradoxically, has meant some retailers have started providing shoppers with thicker bags. Taking to task an unfortunate loophole to the ordinance, Celerah told the paper that: “The issue of the thicker bags was not in the ordinance. That was decided on by the city Solid Waste Department.” Celerah and other advocates believe the ordinance is giving way to “greenwashing” in that the public is being misled into believing that thicker bags are environmentally friendly. She also points out how the polarization around plastic bags took her and other advocates by surprise: “We were really blindsided.”
- Telemundo featured our Arizona field organizer Columba Sainz in a profile entitled “Mother, Activist, and Latina”
- 1 FM WABE in Atlanta echoed what our Georgia field organizer Almeta Cooper had to say about our ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to fund solutions for cutting air pollution including zero emission buses.
- The new project Our Children’s Air featuring a number of our organizers and staff is spotlighted in Air Quality News.
- Our Iowa field organizer Karin Stein is profiled in Iowa Starting Line with an emphasis on her ability to combine Latin music with environmental activism.
- National Field Manager Tonya Howard Calhoun revealed in a first-person essay all the reasons why her native Gulf Coast is worth the climate fight.