MOMS CONFRONT CORONAVIRUS
As a parent-driven and health-focused advocacy group, our hearts go out to everyone grappling with the growing public health emergency caused by the coronavirus. As schools and businesses close, as travel is curtailed, and as social interaction is limited, every one of us is facing a challenging and uncertain new normal. At Moms Clean Air Force, we have been responding to the pandemic by moving our advocacy and outreach efforts online in the 15 states and the District of Columbia where we have field chapters, among other measures. As part of our effort to continue to elevate our members’ voices even in the midst of a global pandemic, our staff and organizers are working together to prioritize our families’ health as an online community of parents.
Our public health policy director Molly Rauch was interviewed by environmental reporter Scott Fallon of the USA Today affiliate newspaper The Record about air pollution and the coronavirus quarantine. Molly addressed concerns that people who are breathing polluted air may be at greater risk of complications from the virus: “It’s a public health double whammy. We may learn over time that those who suffer from air pollution may well have been at greater risk to the effects of coronavirus.” Molly also discussed the fact that we are not celebrating quarantine-induced pollution reductions: “A global pandemic is not the way we want cleaner air. When you stop an industrial economy, yes, there will be a temporary benefit. But long term, you need sound policy decisions and movement away from fossil fuel use.”
Did you know living in an area with poor air quality may worsen the impacts of Covid-19? Mother Jones, in partnership with The Center for Public Integrity, explored the connection between air pollution and coronavirus. For those 40% of Americans who live in areas that fail to meet federal air quality standards, this may make them more vulnerable to the impacts of coronavirus. The public health double-whammy of coronavirus plus dirty air is deeply concerning to Moms Clean Air Force organizers Catherine Flowers in Houston and Columba Sainz in Phoenix. “Too often, pollution, low income and poor health go together, a trap that people cannot escape. After her eldest daughter began to wheeze, Columba Sainz […] moved her family of five away from a Phoenix neighborhood where diesel buses idled. She worries about the residents who can’t afford to get out. ‘People just stay inside the house or don’t spend much time outside,’ she said. Catherine Garcia Flowers […] wishes the country would treat pollution and climate change with the same sense of urgency as the coronavirus. As it is, the Houston resident said, too few people make the connection between air quality and health. ‘People talk about allergies,’ she said. ‘When I say, ‘Oh, what kind of allergies do you have,’ they often say, ‘I don’t know. I just can’t breathe.’”
During this period of drastic socially distancing, coronavirus is changing many of our personal habits – down to the way we groom. St. Paul’s Pioneer Press (in Minnesota) discussed Moms Clean Air Force editorial director Ronnie Citron-Fink’s book True Roots: What Quitting Hair Dye Taught Me about Health and Beauty: “With salons closed because of the coronavirus and family money probably tight, what better time to take the plunge and follow through with your longing to set your hair free? After all, nobody except the family is going to see you during the transition since we’re all staying home,” writes Mary Ann Grossman in her dispatch “Daily Distraction: Can’t color your hair? This woman wrote the book on going gray.” Other critics continue to offer praise for the book, as with “Ditching the Dye: The Other Side of Going Gray,” on the website Unruly.
MOMS ROCK THE AIRWAVES
Heather McTeer Toney, national field director for Moms Clean Air Force, spoke to a dozen radio shows across the country – including NBC News Radio and stations in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Baltimore – as part of a Black History month radio tour. She examined a recent poll of 1,000 African Americans showing that a majority of them across the United States are personally affected by disease and extreme weather made worse by climate change, and support a transition to a 100% clean economy to curb climate pollution.
Moms Clean Air Force knows that communities of color are especially vulnerable to air and water pollution and the deadly health risks made worse by climate change, so the poll’s results didn’t surprise Heather: “This data falls right in line with what we hear from our members: African Americans are concerned about the impacts of climate change and want solutions that don’t pour more pollution into already overburdened communities. A 100% clean economy is a solution that looks to ensure a fair and equitable future to black communities, and Moms Clean Air Force strongly supports legislation that moves us in that direction.”
MOMS ON ACTIVISM AS A FAMILY AFFAIR
The online newspaper Salon.com published an interview with Heather McTeer Toney in which she shares how her two terms as the first African-American, first female, and youngest mayor of Greenville, Mississippi, enable her to be an even more effective activist. Heather also opens up about what it was like to grow up in a family steeped in social justice work. “If you were a kid in the ’80s and ’90s, chances are you spent your weekends in front of the TV or at the mall. When Heather McTeer Toney was a child in Greenville, Mississippi, she spent her weekends at social justice rallies marching with her dad, a retired civil rights attorney. “‘I have seen pictures of myself in my Sunday best on the front lines of a rally or a march,’ Toney told me in our conversation for Inflection Point. ‘And I’m positive that I was enjoying playing or being around other friends, but I was participating in social justice, you know, so that’s what it was like in our house.’”