Montana state coordinator Michelle Uberuaga lives in Livingston, which is situated along the Yellowstone River. Last week, the river flooded in what the US Geological Survey called a 1-in-500 year event. Michelle has been documenting recovery efforts on the @CleanAirMoms_MT Twitter page and spoke to NBC NOW Tonight about what she calls “a really long week.” She tells the host, Harry Smith, about how “overwhelmed and heartbroken” the members of her community are feeling but emphasizes how proud they are of the way the community came together to protect local businesses, homes, and vulnerable individuals when the waters started rising.
Michelle concludes the segment by drawing parallels between the floodwaters and climate change: “As the river was rising here on Monday, I saw community members rally to hold back the force of the Yellowstone River from the levee that was about to breach in our community… I believe that is what saved so many homes and businesses, and it’s really going to take … a similar commitment from our global community to hold back the floodwaters of climate change… We’re all going to have to do what our community just did, but really on a grand scale to protect communities across the world.”
CLIMATE CHANGE, AIR POLLUTION, AND PREGNANCY
Michelle also talked to Parents about how climate change and air pollution impact pregnant people. She remembers being worried about pollution from climate change-fueled wildfires when she was pregnant in 2020 with her third child: “I was concerned that if I went through my first trimester during wildfire season, it would have a negative impact on my baby’s development.”
Studies link air pollution and extreme heat to preterm birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth, and pregnant people are more likely to suffer from heat-related illness. Disasters impact expecting parents’ mental health too. Michelle says: “Climate pollution and the threats of extreme weather intensify the anxious emotions women already feel while pregnant.”
MOM TO EPA: CUT TRUCK POLLUTION NOW
Ana Rios (pictured above), our state coordinator in New Mexico, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. She describes her neighborhood as being “well known as a low-income area where people of color and the Latino community live” and writes that her house is one mile from a highway and “steps” from a heavy-duty truck company. Ana has three children and says: “I worry every day about how air and climate pollution will affect my children’s health and development.”
Ana’s concerns are backed by science. As National Field Manager Elizabeth Brandt tells CGTN America: “Children breathe faster, and they actually absorb more pollution in their little bodies than we do.”
That’s why Ana is telling EPA to strengthen its proposed truck pollution standards and “put America on a path toward 100% electrification of polluting big-rigs, trucks and buses.” She writes: “Everyone has the right to breathe clean air, and the EPA must lead the way to getting us there.”
THE IMPACT OF ECOMADRES
EcoMadres educates Latino communities about the dangers of climate change and air pollution and empowers them to take action. Carolina Peña-Alarcón, who leads EcoMadres, describes our program to Front Page Live: “With EcoMadres we engage for and with the community, making accessible information during our ‘Cafecitos,’ virtual meetings, visits to churches and schools, and places where the community is, where we can hold sincere and honest conversations in which people can learn if the environmental conditions that surround them are affecting their lives.”
Carolina tells Front Page Live that her family voluntarily chose to immigrate to the US from Bolivia, but that many families come to the US for their safety: “Many millions of people around the world are forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution … and unfortunately due to climate-related events. We need to build empathy and understanding for their journey and hopefully we will be able to find workable and effective solutions for a better future for all.”
Iowa state coordinator and EcoMadres member Karin Stein tells El Nuevo Sol that fighting for effective solutions for all is what motivates her: “My greatest pride is making it possible for a person to speak with a legislator. That way, legislators realize that [personal] stories aren’t statistics. Stories represent our lived experiences. The suffering is real.”
In an interview with Univision Houston, EcoMadre and Texas state coordinator Erandi Treviño explains that it is often children who suffer the most: “68% of Latinos in the US live in an area where environmental quality is not acceptable and the most affected are children because they are still developing their lungs and brain.” Given the chance, Erandi “would tell decision-makers that they need to put their priorities in the right place. The right place is to protect our communities, that our communities are healthy, and that they have clean air.”
These quotes have been translated from Spanish.
“IT’S LIKE WALKING INTO YOUR OVEN”
Residents across the nation are living with extreme heat, and those in the Southwest have been especially hard-hit. Arizona state coordinator Hazel Chandler and Colorado state coordinator Shaina Oliver talked to Yahoo! News about how this severe weather is impacting their communities for a story that also ran in AOL.
Hazel says that the over 110-degree weather they’ve been experiencing feels “like walking into your oven.” And while this kind of heat endangers everyone, those who work outside or don’t have access to air conditioning are at the highest risk for heat-related illness and death. Shaina points out that people of color tend to have the lowest access to cooling: “People that are brown, Indigenous, Latino, Black … most of the households we occupy are old buildings that were never renovated, never updated.” Hazel says that even those who have air conditioning in their buildings may not be able to use it: “Many can’t afford to turn air conditioning on because they just can’t afford the bills, especially on houses that have substandard insulation and lack decent windows, the bills are just horrendous for air-conditioning.”
There’s no quick fix for extreme weather, but Hazel says that the first step is to tackle the climate crisis, which is making heat waves longer, more frequent, and more severe: “We need bold climate action to happen and funding from the federal government to help us start to transition to a sustainable energy system.”
In West Virginia, Moms Clean Air Force’s Lucia Valentine is urging elected officials to do just that. She worked with local partners to organize a “Jammin’ for Jobs & Justice” event, which Yahoo Finance reports aimed to celebrate West Virginia and generate support for federal investments that would help the state cut climate pollution.
Lucia tells the Times West Virginian that she and her partners are fighting for legislation that prioritizes workers: “We want to put these workers back to work and invest in the future of West Virginia and let them be a part of that future because they were such an important part of our past in West Virginia.”
THE COST OF A RIDE TO SCHOOL
Diesel-powered school buses are another source of toxic tailpipe pollution. Whether driving through communities or idling next to a school, they produce pollution that can trigger asthma attacks, impair learning, and even cause cancer. National Manager for Health Equity Almeta Cooper sums up these buses in an interview with Green Matters: “These diesel fuel buses are just terrible for children.”
Tailpipe pollution from diesel buses is especially dangerous for kids with asthma, which doesn’t affect communities equally. Almeta points out that “you have an increased opportunity to have a child with asthma if you have a child of color.”
Electric school buses, however, do not produce any tailpipe pollution and provide kids with a quiet, clean ride to school. Electric buses are more expensive than diesel ones, but a new Business Insider “True Cost” video highlights that electric school buses could pay for themselves over their lifetime. And as the narrator says: “Few parents would put a price on the health and safety of their kids.”
Montana’s Michelle Uberuaga appears in the video, sharing her perspective as a parent: “When you’re in a community, and you can see the pollution, and you can see your kids coughing and being impacted, it’s a lot easier to understand what those costs are.”
- Moms Clean Air Force’s Elizabeth Brandt, Carolina Peña-Alarcón, and Lucia Valentine met with Senator Capito, Representative Tonko, partners, and electric vehicle industry leaders at an electric school and transit bus event at the US Capitol. Read more about the event in Yahoo Finance and AP News.
- Senior Policy Analyst Elizabeth Bechard talked to Reader’s Digest a couple of weeks ago about climate anxiety. The story recently ran in MSN.
- Mamavation tested different peanut butter brands for traces of PFAS and found that 12% of the products tested contained some markers for these “forever chemicals.” They list Moms Clean Air Force as one of the groups urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent these chemicals from getting into our food.
- Moms Clean Air Force is cited as a source in the Society of Environmental Journalists’ recent article about particle pollution.
- East City Art reports on artist Monica Jahan Bose’s work and her “Storytelling with Saris” installation, which is supported by Moms Clean Air Force.