At Moms Clean Air Force, our Stay-In and Speak Out for Climate Action events continue to gain momentum. To date, our organizers have held memorable online conversations with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Congressman Steven Horsford (NV-4), and Congresswoman Diana DeGette (CO-1), with more being scheduled every day. You can view those events here.
We will be holding these virtual events throughout August to demand climate action from elected officials, and talk to a range of experts about how we can all fight for our children’s health and be a part of climate change solutions.
HOLDING TRUMP’S EPA ACCOUNTABLE
Writing in the daily Charleston Gazette-Mail, Leah Barbor, our West Virginia field organizer, explains how Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), headed by Administrator Andrew Wheeler (a former coal industry lobbyist), has been exploiting a global pandemic to continue a relentless assault on public health and environmental safeguards. Leah shares what the rollbacks mean for West Virginia’s most underinvested communities, and why she is choosing to speak out: “As a mother of two young children under four in Upshur County, this fight [for clean air] is constantly on my mind. My children’s lungs are still developing and what they are breathing now will most certainly affect their ability to fight off respiratory diseases like the novel coronavirus in the future. But, Administrator Wheeler is at it again, failing to clean up our air when families like mine need him to do so.” Leah implores our leaders in Congress, including West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, to hold Wheeler accountable “for walking off the field and then leaving us vulnerable to pollution during this public health crisis. By speaking out against Wheeler’s actions, Sen. Manchin can show us that he sides with families and children like mine, as he has done before, over dirty corporate polluters. We are counting on him to do the right thing.”
CALLING OUT A NOMINEE UNFIT TO MANAGE OUR PUBLIC LANDS
Writing in the Colorado Sun, Shaina Oliver, our Denver-based field organizer and tribal member of the Navajo Nation (Dine’) speaks out in strong opposition to President Trump’s pick to manage the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), William Perry Pendley. Shaina identifies why Pendley is unfit to manage our public lands and how his long record of attacking Indigenous people and denying climate change disqualify him even further: “…The BLM director is in charge of 250 million acres of America’s public land, including land sacred to my people, the Dine’. To qualify for this enormous responsibility, Pendley should support stewardship of these public lands and possess some basic cultural competencies. But he hasn’t done this, and he never will.” Centuries of exploitation, including Pendley’s career spent putting the profits of extractive industries ahead of the needs of communities that rely on our public lands, is deeply personal for Shaina: “As a result, the lands on which we built a culture of humility, harmony, and protection for the next seven generations have been drilled, mined, polluted and discarded. My own grandfather, forced to earn an income in whatever way possible, mined uranium without protective gear and died too early because of it.”
Shaina sums up Pendley’s nomination this way: “…[It] is an outrage and extreme offense not just to Indigenous people, and not just to mothers, but to every person who breathes air, drinks water, and cares about America’s public lands, our Indigenous homelands. These lands help us fight climate change, sustain our spirits, honor our ancestors, and protect vital wildlife habitat.”
“In conclusion, Shaina appeals to Colorado Senator Gardner to join her in denouncing Pendley as unfit to lead: “If Senator Gardner cares at all about a livable planet and a just society, he needs to take a stand against Pendley as well.”
NEW YORK TIMES INTERVIEWS OUR NATIONAL FIELD MANAGER
Trisha Dello Iacono, our national field manager spoke with New York Times’ lead climate reporter, Lisa Friedman, about climate change leadership in the Senate and the record of Senator Kamala Harris, in particular, when it comes to environmental justice: “Trisha Dello Iacono, a national field manager with Moms Clean Air Force, an environmental group, worked closely with Ms. Harris’ staff in the development of the bill [Climate Equity Act]. She said it ensures that communities most affected by pollution will have a seat at the table in developing environmental policy. ‘If this is the last thing she does in the Senate, it’s a huge win for the environmental justice community,’ Trisha said.
OUR NATIONAL FIELD DIRECTOR ON THE URGENCY OF ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
As the first female, first black, and youngest mayor of Greenville, Mississippi, Heather McTeer Toney, our national field director, shares how these formative experiences shaped her into the environmental activist she is today in an interview with Authority Magazine. Heather also highlights the importance of youth activists in the environmental movement, and how parents can encourage their kids to act on climate: “I would like to spur the engagement of the African American community to embrace climate action, the same way that we embrace voter’s rights and equal justice.”
Heather also recently sat down with Rev. Lennox Yearwood, a minister and community activist with the Hip Hop Caucus for the podcast “The Coolest Show on Climate Change” to talk about the history of the environmental justice movement, her role within, and much more. As Heather told the Reverend: “The mainstream environmental movement has now come to a place where we are seeing a bigger willingness to work alongside and really integrate environmental justice into all our work — and I’m very proud of that…the mainstream environment movement has been white for a long time, that does not mean that environmental work has always been white.” You can listen to a short teaser here or their full 70 minute conversation on Spotify, Google, and Apple.
In a first-person essay, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise” for World War Zero, Heather shares her views on the intersection between climate change and the coronavirus: “Pandemics are made worse by our overheating climate and those effects are felt most harshly in black and brown communities. We’re supposed to shelter in place, but the places we live are overwhelmed with pollution, making our lands and water toxic.”
LATINOS, AIR POLLUTION, & THE UNITING POWER OF ‘CAFECITOS’
Columba Sainz, our Arizona field organizer, spoke with radio host Maria Antonieta Collins on her Spanish-language syndicated talk show “Casos y Cosas de Collins.” Columba discussed her advocacy, how it all began. and how she mobilizes fellow Latino families to advocate for clean air. Here are some heavily redacted excerpts (translated from the original Spanish):
MAC: You have a daughter with respiratory problems, and that made you fight for clean air for children, especially Latinos, who are left behind when there are advocates fighting for others.
CS: That’s right. Unfortunately, I live in one of the most polluted places, in one of the most polluted cities in the United States, which is Phoenix, Arizona.
MAC: That’s awful. Tell us what you have done.
CS: We meet with other moms so that they, too, can know what air pollution is. And through these little “cafecitos” (coffee meet ups), as we call it, we become aware of how we, as moms, can raise our voices and make a change in our communities.
MAC: Columba, you told us your daughter couldn’t even go to the park, let’s talk about why that is.
CS: What happened was that I began to realize that there were days when the air felt very dense and my daughters got tired faster. And I totally ignored it. I thought it was just what it was. I didn’t realize what was going on exactly. So when I started paying attention, I realized that every day was different. The hotter it is here in Phoenix, the greater the impact on my lungs, on my daughters’ respiratory systems.
My oldest daughter, the two-year-old, one night woke up in the middle of the night because she couldn’t breathe. And that sounded off an alarm, and I said something is happening and it is not normal. My daughter did not have asthma. Eventually, I learned through an air quality application and Moms Clean Air Force that unfortunately the air quality was not very good.
MAC: Your story is not isolated. In the United States, the African-American and Hispanic communities bear the greatest burden when it comes to climate change. This disproportionately affects our low-income neighborhoods.
CS: That’s right, Maria Antonieta. Unfortunately, we as Latinos, African Americans — the people with the least resources— live near freeways in areas without enough green areas. We live near factories. And that has a very big impact on the health of our community, on the health of our little ones, because their organs are in full development and it affects us greatly. This is compared to wealthier areas that are more resilient with this climate crisis.
MAC: Now tell us what you have done. Your group is taking action — what are you doing?
CS: We have reach out to our elected officials and are advocating for them to take action in order to transition to a 100% clean energy economy.
MAC: What can people do? Where can you get more information?
CS: I would invite people to join Moms Clean Air Force. There they can comment and send messages to their congressmen, their senators. I would tell them to contact their elected officials and remind them that they are there to represent you, to tell them about the report “Solving the Climate Crisis” that it is not yet a law, but with the support of us all, our families, our mothers, our parents, we can make this happen.
In our last edition of Moms Make News, we brought you an op-ed penned by Karin Stein, our Iowa field organizer, titled “COVID-19 Puts a Disproportionate Burden on Black and Latino Iowans.” In response, an impacted resident wrote a letter to the paper’s editor sharing how Karin’s writing reflects her family’s Latino experience: “For decades, people in Muscatine have been breathing air that contains a devastating mix of particulate and chemical pollution…I saw my father die at a young age after suffering from a variety of chronic health problems. My mother, brother, and youngest son suffer from chronic asthma, which severely affects their quality of life. My youngest son must stay indoors on most days due to poor air quality. Our medical bills consume much of our household income. Clean air would significantly reduce the need for costly medicines like inhalers and steroids. Why don’t we just move? Because this is our home and everyone has the right to breathe clean air. The solution is not for people to have to flee from polluters, but for all people regardless of income or skin color to be able to lead healthy lives and have a better chance of fighting disease…” Karen goes on to suggest specific actions that her Senators could take to hold the EPA accountable for weakening environmental standards that harm her family.
EXPOSING FLAWS TO METHANE RULES
The Albuquerque Journal spoke to Celerah Hewes, our New Mexico field organizer, about her participation in a public listening session on a draft rule requiring oil and gas operators to meet a 98% gas-capture rate by the end of 2026. Celerah voiced real concern about the proposed rule’s many exemptions: “These exemptions disproportionately affect children as well as Navajo and Latino communities who are much more likely to live within a mile of a well in oil and gas producing counties.” As is well documented, oil and gas operations are leaking, venting, and flaring dangerous air pollution that impacts the health of children and families that live, learn, and play nearby.
In a related story, State Impact Pennsylvania, a reporting project of NPR, credited Moms Clean Air Force for being one of a handful of organizations to speak out against loopholes in a proposal rule on methane and volatile organic compounds. Of the 30,000 comments on the rule that the state’s Department of Environmental Protection received 4,200 comments from Moms Clean Air Force members.