Moms Clean Air Force is collecting letters, photos and videos about climate change and action for our children and future generations. The Mother’s and Father’s Day campaign runs in May and June through a joint collaboration with Moms Clean Air Force partners, DearTomorrow and The Solutions Project.
Today you turn five. It’s nearly 8am and I’m heading home to you after joining EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in Nashville to talk about climate change with moms from across Tennessee. As a mom, I feel an overwhelming guilt that I was not there this morning to wake you up singing “Happy Birthday.” But as your mom, I feel immense pride that it was you that put me on this path to protect you and children across the country.
Before I was pregnant with you, I thought very little about the world in which I was creating a family. Sure, I cared about breastfeeding and organic vegetables. I recycled and thought the idea of composting was intriguing. But until I was pregnant with you, I had no clue about the scale of the issues we would face as a family.
When I was pregnant with you, your dad and I decided that we wanted to move closer to family. I decided to stay home with your brother and you in our new home, in a new city. We moved to Philadelphia and settled into the challenges of raising a young family. In March of 2011, my childhood friend, Katie Feeney, asked me if I could help her out at the Clean Air Council. They were holding a press conference about a proposal to limit mercury pollution. Since I was pregnant, she asked if I would be willing to speak. “Yes!” I jumped at the idea and frankly, I was bored and wanted to get out of the house. Living in a new city I barely knew anyone. Katie sent me some information about mercury pollution, and during those long sleepless nights of the third trimester, I began to learn how mercury impacts unborn babies and young children.
What I discovered made me angry.
A few years before, when I found out I was pregnant with your older brother, my OB/GYN had given me a list of “dos and don’ts” – one of which was to avoid tunafish. I had internalized the knowledge that tuna fish, along with other large fish, contained mercury and should be avoided when pregnant. I certainly didn’t want to harm my growing baby.
I was so angry when I found out where all that mercury in fish came from: It was spewing out from coal-fired power plants!
My baby, the one growing inside my belly, the one thing I would do anything to protect, might get harmed by pollution that we had the technology to clean up. And what’s more, some of the very people we elected to protect our families to keep us safe were putting profits and political aspirations over our the health of our babies.
From that moment on, I pledged to protect you and your brother, not only in the choices I made as a consumer in the grocery store, but by advocating for your health in the halls of Congress. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the dangerous impact of the fossil fuel industry wasn’t limited to just mercury pollution. I learned about BPA in bottles and cans, fossil fuels and the plastics industry, and that many everyday products we use in our home were potentially toxic. I had assumed that our chemical laws protected us, but found out the main law was so broken that it failed to protect us from chemicals known to be harmful.
The most alarming thing I learned was that the burning of fossil fuels was driving climate chaos, and as we lived through Katrina, Superstorm Sandy and other extreme weather events, the climate change connection became clearer and clearer.
Angry and motivated, I started volunteering to fight pollution. But then, when you were just 10 months old, I heard a squeaking noise that I thought was a baby toy. I turned around and saw your tiny body struggling to take a breath – your lips were turning blue. Nothing prepared me for the absolute fear and horror I felt as a mother watching you struggle to do the very basic of human actions – breathing. Asthma was rattling your lungs.
That day I doubled down on my commitment to you, your brother and your future brother – I would spend my life protecting the health of my babies. This was no longer about tunafish, or buying a bottle without BPA, or even climate change – this was about life and death.
So today, on the day of your birth, I thank you, Fiona, for rocking my world to the core and inspiring me to fight for all families. Becoming mama to your brothers and you has been my most important work and I pledge to continue do everything I can to protect you.
I apologize for not waking you up singing “Happy Birthday.” But I will be home in about 20 minutes to shower you with kisses and thank you.
Moms Clean Air Force and I will fight every day to protect the air you breathe. And as a mother and daughter team, you will join me in putting people before polluters, fighting so unborn babies grow in a pollution-free womb, fighting for the rights of pregnant women to create life free from toxic chemicals, fighting for the rights of school children to attend class without being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals from fracking operations, fighting for real investment in renewable energy, and we will fight to elect leaders that will do everything they can to protect America’s children instead of everything they can to protect America’s polluters.
Fiona, together we will win. Happy Birthday my dear, I love you.
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