Like many of the young people in the county, Madigan struggled with her mental health in the aftermath of the fire. But she found relief in working with her peers to advocate for climate solutions, since tackling the climate crisis can help reduce the impact of wildfires in the future. In the 10th grade, Madigan and fellow sophomore Giselle Perez took their advocacy to the next level and worked with California Representative Mike Thompson to write House Resolution 975, the first resolution introduced in Congress that acknowledges the impact of climate change on youth mental health. The resolution has since been endorsed by over 80 organizations, including Moms Clean Air Force, the American Psychological Association, and UNICEF USA.
Last month, our Senior Policy Analyst, Elizabeth Bechard (above), met Madigan and Giselle when she and the teens spoke in support of H.Res. 975 at a press conference in Washington, DC. Quoted in the Lake County Record-Bee, Elizabeth says: “The climate crisis is a mental health crisis, and youth are among the most vulnerable. This reality is core to House Resolution 975 which represents a truly critical step forward in creating the infrastructure we need to support youth mental health in a changing climate.”
For Madigan and Giselle, this support can’t come soon enough. At the press conference, Giselle told NBC Bay Area that fires have had a significant impact on the mental health of youth in her community. She says that it’s “terrifying” when someone smells smoke.
We know that the impacts of the climate crisis can take a toll on our mental health in many ways, but a new study suggests that disasters intensified by climate change can impact the mental health of kids before they are even born. The study found that children who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy when they were still in the womb were at a “substantially increased risk” of developing depression, anxiety, and behavior disorders in early childhood. The Boston Globe reports on the study, tying its significance to the H.Res. 975 press conference and speakers’ calls for more support for youth struggling with the mental health impacts of climate change.
PETROCHEMICAL THREATS ACROSS THE NATION
Shell’s new ethane cracker plant in the Ohio River Valley is set to become operational this fall–and residents are worried. The plant will produce the building blocks of plastics along with (literal) tons of pollution that destabilizes the climate and harms people’s health. In an article that also ran in Dissident Voice, The Defender reports that children are especially vulnerable to the consequences of air pollution because their bodies are rapidly growing and developing. This worries our Senior National Field Manager Patrice Tomcik, whose son is a cancer survivor. She says: “I know firsthand about polluting industries because my community is completely surrounded by polluting sources.”
Shaina Oliver can relate. She is our Moms and EcoMadres state coordinator in Colorado and her children live near the super-polluting Suncor refinery. Her friend and colleague, Lucy Molina, tells 9 News that people who live in this area experience bloody noses and headaches. Lucy says that they know they are being poisoned.
As reported on 9 News, EcoMadres is part of a coalition that teaches families about the health impacts of air pollution and gives them the tools they need to advocate for their health. Shaina says that one of their projects is to “[bridge] communities together to … support air quality monitoring.” More air quality data will help affected residents better understand their health and inform future rule- and lawmaking.
CUT CAR POLLUTION FOR OUR KIDS
Michigan state coordinator Elizabeth Hauptman joined Flint-area elected officials in urging EPA to propose and finalize strong tailpipe pollution standards at a press conference last month. M Live covers the presser, where Elizabeth said: “One of the best ways to combat climate change and protect public health is to cut carbon pollution.”
Strong tailpipe pollution standards are essential to curbing emissions from the transportation sector, which is the largest source of climate pollution in the US. Vehicle exhaust also spews a range of harmful pollutants into our communities that can cause asthma, lung infections, heart attacks, stroke, premature death, low birth weight, and cancer.
In California, vehicle pollution poses an outsize threat. More than half of the Golden State’s carbon pollution currently comes from the transportation sector, but that could soon change. California recently decided to require car companies in the state to sell more zero-pollution vehicles, and other states are poised to follow suit. The new rule will incrementally phase out the sale of new fossil-fueled vehicles, but residents and visitors will still be able to drive their gas vehicles, purchase gas, and buy and sell used gas cars.
Our Public Health Policy Director Molly Rauch tells Reader’s Digest that she sees the health benefits of the rule as “vastly outweighing” the challenges of implementation. Molly says: “At the end of the day, who doesn’t want their children and grandchildren to breathe clean air?”
Take action on tailpipe pollution now!
- Colorado state coordinator Laurie Anderson is featured in EDF’s new blog post about how to go from “doomscroller to changemaker.” Laurie says that she became passionate about protecting her community from the health impacts of the oil and gas industry after a fracking operation set to open less than half a mile from her Colorado home: “What started as outrage over what they were doing to my community became a commitment to climate action on the state and national levels.”
- Ohio River Valley coordinator Rachel Meyer participated in a Halt the Harm Network panel conversation about Shell’s new ethane cracker plant in Pennsylvania. The conversation centers on reporting by Environmental Health Network that highlights the many ways that the new plant threatens the health of the surrounding area. Rachel is one of the affected residents and hopes that decision-makers and others in her community will see that “we have more sustainable ways that we can make a living and provide for our families and communities, and that we don’t have to continue to hurt ourselves extracting and burning fossil fuels.”
- Almeta Cooper, our National Manager for Health Equity, was a panelist in EDF’s Curated Climate Conversation about zero-pollution vehicles and spoke about racism in health care on Health Law Weekly.