As revealed in Real Simple this month (see below), Moms Clean Air Force is always striving to put moms “in the room where it happens.” Moms have the power to shape climate leadership by inserting themselves into conversations at every level of government. It’s no surprise that so many of our organizers go on to run for elected office. In this issue of Moms Make News, you will hear from moms from West Virginia to Nevada — finding their way into rooms where decisions about climate and air pollution are made.
CELEBRATING THE RETURN OF SCIENCE
The Washington Post quoted our director and co-founder Dominique Browning in response to the relaunch of EPA’s webpage about climate change: “We are relieved to see that the EPA is now actually going to post information about climate change on its website — again. The site was removed by a denier administration, and their denial is endangering all of us. It’s time to face reality.” The page had been removed from the site by the Trump administration in 2017.
The Verge also quoted Dominique in its coverage of the return of the EPA’s climate webpage: “We teach our children that it is important to understand science, to gather facts, to do good research. So you can imagine how pleased Moms are that the agency charged with protecting human health from climate pollution is recommitting to understanding science, gathering facts, and doing good research.”
MOMS IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS
In its April edition, the magazine Real Simple Section invited “experts working tirelessly on climate solutions” to share with readers what they can do. Heather McTeer Toney, our senior advisor, had this advice: “Be in the room where it happens—many cities have empty board seats, and parents are uniquely qualified to serve. The Moms & Mayors program raises awareness about these positions and encourages climate-conscious citizens to apply. From the tree board to the transportation committee, our voices need to be heard. Nobody knows better than parents that fixing harmful emissions helps fix asthma in kids.”
GOING SOLAR IN COAL COUNTRY
Drawing on her own experience as a single mom working her way out of poverty, our West Virginia member Keena Mullins shares her experience of building a career as a solar entrepreneur. In an op-ed in her state’s Gazette Mail, Keena shares: “I grew up in Dickenson County, Virginia, in the heart of Appalachian coal country. Generations of my family mined coal in this area, including my dad.[…] In 2014, I found myself a single mother of two toddlers, moving back to my hometown of Clintwood, Virginia. The best job I could find was as an Applebee’s server. I was paid $2.16 an hour (plus tips), just as my mom had earned. I came back to a region that was suffering from the decline of the coal industry, and what I saw made me determined to advocate for economic development beyond coal. The jobs that have been lost from the decline of coal cannot be replaced with a call center or a prison, although that is what we were offered. I took a different path. I found a job with Solar Holler, a West Virginia-based company where I learned about solar installation.” Now that Keena owns her own solar installation company, she sees firsthand how renewable energy can help build a thriving economy for West Virginians — but “we need support, so that business owners do not look out of state for solar installers. […] Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has always been a strong advocate for bringing new jobs to West Virginia and, for that, we should be grateful. But more is needed, across all levels of government, to ensure West Virginians are not left behind as the coal industry continues its decline.”
LUNG HEALTH MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER FOR COVID “LONG-HAULERS”
KUNR, the National Public Radio station in Reno, Nevada, interviewed Jennifer Cantley (see photo above), one of our Nevada field organizers, for a look at life as a Covid-19 “long-hauler”: “COVID hit me right on the day of the election. That’s when my fiancé got diagnosed. It just was all these emotions at one time because it’s, like, the words you don’t want to hear as a mom who has asthma and then two children who have asthma. And then, ‘Bam! Oh, now you’ve got COVID.’”
Listen to all 2:14 minutes of this interview collected as an “audio diary” here.
This profile follows an interview with Jennifer from KUNR that aired earlier as part of a one-hour special “A Year In The Pandemic.” Go to minute 12:20 to hear Jennifer’s interview.
Jennifer recently met U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra during a press conference in her hometown of Carson City about the Affordable Care Act. As she told Becerra, the virus is creating a new generation of people who will suffer from lung health issues long after this pandemic is over. It’s why air pollution poses, in the wake of the COVID pandemic, an even more serious health risk to people everywhere.
IS RECYCLING WORTH IT?
The news outlet Mic provokingly asks its readers “Is recycling worth it?”, given how little plastic is recycled in this country. To know more about why so many conservation efforts focus on the reducing and reusing waste, Mic spoke to our director and co-founder, Dominique Browning, who had this to say: “Think of plastic as a precious resource, instead of a disposable mess, and refuse it when you don’t absolutely need it. Reuse it when you do.” Dominique also shares that while recycling is far from perfect, it is absolutely essential: “It is definitely worth the effort to recycle. It makes a huge difference,” she tells Mic. “Pay no attention to the fossil fuel propaganda that says otherwise.” And as for consumers, Dominique suggests “flexing your purchasing power” by buying products with recycled material or frequenting businesses that have made commitments to recycling: “With every purchase, you boost demand for products made with recycled content.”
In a related interview, Congressional Roll Call interviewed Dominique for its feature on how efforts to defeat the Coronavirus have produced a plastics surge. “Dominique Browning […] said she would like to see Democrats include a big push to bolster recycling capacity in any infrastructure package they move this session. But Browning also expressed concern about new natural gas-fueled plastic facilities and said the problem is so significant it will require a truly systemic approach. ‘Plastic can be a life-saving material and we need to treat it like a precious resource, not like a disposable piece of garbage.’”
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS HOW WE BUILD BACK BETTER
Writing in Univision, Columba Sainz, our Arizona field organizer, shares how ending racial injustice while rebuilding the economy equitably must come first as the Biden-Harris Administration rolls out its Build Back Better program: “As a mother of three children, one of whom has respiratory conditions; as a resident of the seventh most polluted city in the country, Phoenix; and as a Latina activist who fights for our communities’ rights, President Biden’s executive actions for the climate are first steps that fill me with hope. (…) Our Latino communities are in the front lines of this battle. Whether it’s because we survived the hurricanes and wildfires that we continue to be exposed to every season; or because we have to rush to the emergency room with our little ones gasping for air due to the air pollution they breathe every day; or because when we work on the farms and in the fields we face extreme heat and toxic pesticides; for these and so many other reasons, we needed these immediate actions from President Biden.”
This op-ed also appeared in Prensa de Houston.
BLACK BUYING POWER AND THE CLIMATE CRISIS
In her first-person essay on Black buying power, Heather McTeer Toney discusses how people of color–more affected by the climate crisis than any other group — are ready to put their money in the hands of businesses that will solve it. Heather opens with this attention-grabbing question: “What do Beyoncé, South African rapper Da L.E.S., and my 73-year-old dad have in common?” The answer: “Besides the fact that they’re all Black, they all drive electric vehicles.” Heather describes how “there has been a seismic cultural shift in the acceptance of alternative fuel/climate-friendly vehicles in minority communities” spanning generations and geographic locations.” This trend speaks volumes to how minorities might take full advantage of the Biden-Harris climate plan for clean-energy investment: “[O]ur country can embrace a clean electricity standard and begin to advance environmental justice and infrastructure stability in Black and Brown neighborhoods, one charging station and electric vehicle at a time.”