2018 is the “Year of the Woman,” and not just for women who won election to Congress.
Moms who care about clean air, climate change, and our environment flexed some serious muscle in the mid-term elections, and it showed in the issues voters addressed and the candidates who got elected.
Proving there’s not just one thing to do or one way to do it, women did it all. They (we!) phone and text banked, knocked on voters’ doors, and donated money. They attended town hall meetings, handed out literature at the polls, and made their case on social media. They put bumper stickers on their cars and strollers. They tried to pass citizen-driven ballot laws. They supported candidates for local, state, and national office, and some ran for office themselves.
What motivated these moms to give up date nights with their spouses, their kids’ soccer games, and days at work so they could play a role in democracy?
In this two-part series, you’ll meet five Moms Clean Air Force moms who helped make the “Year of the Woman” possible.
Moms Worked on Laws and Ballot Initiatives to Stop Climate Change and Fracking
Becoming a legislator means you can write and pass a law. But in 24 states, you don’t have to be an elected office holder to do that. You can band together with other citizens to draft a law, collect signatures to get it on the ballot, and ask voters, not politicians, to pass it.
This year, two climate-change related initiatives were up for a vote, and two of our moms worked to get them passed…
In Washington State
In Washington state, the Carbon Emissions Fee initiative aimed to charge industries for the carbon emissions they produce. The fees would have supported clean air and water projects and created clean energy jobs. Maybe they could have motivated polluters to pollute less, too.
“I was drawn to the campaign because it focused on creating a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels,” says Seattle resident Christy Scheuer. “I loved the way it addressed our environmental crisis while also focusing on creating economic opportunities.”
She relished being part of the coalition of environmental advocates, doctors, scientists, small businesses, and communities of color who got behind the effort, too. Plus, she says,
“Volunteering…helped ease my anxiety about the election because I was working for something I believed in, rather than hovering on the sideline. I have a 7-month-old baby, so sometimes I felt sleep-deprived and tongue-tied,” Scheuer reveals. “But I found that the best way to counteract these challenges was to practice putting myself out there.”
The Initiative did not pass, but Scheuer isn’t fazed. “I promised myself I would stay involved with climate activism, no matter what happened,” she says.
“This is a fight for my children’s future…a fight for the rights of all living things and for a more equitable world.”
Halfway across the country, Colorado activists including mom, Abbey Palte waged their own ballot fight, one aimed at reining in the oil and gas fracking that’s devastating so many communities in the Mile High State. Palte started learning about “the shocking number of wells that were all around us, and the health, safety, and environmental impacts of this type of oil and gas development” when her family received a request from a fracker to lease the mineral rights under their land.
She worked all summer collecting signatures to get the Safer Setbacks Initiative on the ballot. Once that happened, she canvassed, made signs, phone banked, shared research on social media, recruited volunteers, and “talked to just about everyone I knew.”
It’s not like she had the time. As a busy elementary school teacher with three young children, Palte acknowledges that her family felt a little neglected while she campaigned. But her “fierce desire to protect this beautiful planet and the future of all our children” kept her going.
In the end, initiative proponents were outspent 40 to 1 and lost. Nevertheless, they garnered over 43% of the vote. They’ve also laid the groundwork for future campaigns to reduce fracking’s impacts in their community.
“We live in a democratic society,” Palte points out, “something I have taken for granted for far too long…it’s imperative that we use our right to VOTE…Choosing not to vote isn’t rebellion. It’s surrender.”
Moms Helped Elect Lawmakers
In New Jersey, incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Menendez faced a tough re-election campaign and Democrat Mikie Sherrill was trying to oust an incumbent Republican to capture a U.S. House seat.
Mom, Christine Clarke lives in Sherrill’s 11th District and decided to work both to re-elect Sen. Menendez and get Sherrill her first House victory. She succeeded on both counts!
Clarke attributes her volunteerism to a desire to protect her children.
“The UN’s latest report on climate change, the President’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and rollback critical environmental regulations, attempts to revive pollutant fossil fuel industry projects…must be stopped.”
Initially, Clarke joined activist organizations, co-hosted public forums, and traveled multiple times to DC to visit her elected officials. She became a steering committee member for the NJ People’s Climate March. Clarke and her kids canvassed for Sherrill and Menendez. She also became a member of the Senator’s Environment and Science Leadership Council!
It’s great to have the victories at the polls, but Clarke experienced a sort of victory at home, too.
“It enriched us to have a hands-on experience as advocates…and to know we personally contributed to the success of future climate initiatives,” she said. “We are united in the cause.”
Next Up: Two moms who ran for – and won – elected office.