I was honored to contribute to a new book, Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection. The book explores the powerful and positive ways women support each other. Below is my essay about one of the most inspiring triumphs of my career: Co-founding Moms Clean Air Force!
I’ve spent the last nine months giving birth to a new organization, really an act of incredible team gestation, called Moms Clean Air Force. The labor took place on my kitchen table, but before I start hyperventilating I’ll leave off the birth metaphors.
We are mobilizing to fight air pollution as a children’s health issue—reminding moms that their voices are powerful, and that there are some things money cannot buy, like clean air. We can only protect our right to clean air through being active citizens. We’re using all the social media tools at our fingertips, but we’re also sitting down and meeting with our senators, face to face, and writing old-fashioned notes reminding them that we are not just statistics. We are the people who vote for them, or don’t.
I’ve been meeting with moms from all across the country who are Republicans, Democrats, Independents and apoliticals (at least until now) and are fed up with the status quo. I’ve met Alabama moms who don’t want to make a choice between having a job and their children’s health, Ohio moms who are alarmed by the research linking behavioral issues to air pollution. I’ve met Pennsylvania moms who are outraged that the shale rush is fouling their skies. The New Hampshire moms I’ve met just want to eat tuna fish again and the Dallas moms are worried about that brown bubble of smog rising over their homes.
We are new moms with tiny babies. We are moms carting our kids to soccer games and school events. We are older moms whose children have grown up and moved away. We are grandmoms enjoying our new grandchildren. Some of us are not moms at all, but we honor our own mothers who taught us about fair play and sharing. We may be past having hot flashes, but we’re all having flashes of rage. How dare the polluters and politicians attempt to get away with compromising our lives and the lives our children?
We are women who don’t believe those who deny the science behind climate change. We respect science and doctors, and we listen when they warn us of danger. We know exactly who is going to be around to suffer the impacts of the extreme weather that will make today’s floods, droughts and heat waves look quaint: our children, the loves of our lives. We know that the crazy stuff we are seeing today is just the beginning of global warming, and it is already bad enough.
Is all of this terrifying? Overwhelming? You bet! Moms today feel like they have to be the EPA, FDA and USDA all rolled into one. We’re juggling jobs and babies while struggling to remember enough high school chemistry to understand the labels on beauty products so we know what to avoid. But we also know it is impossible to shop our way out of pollution problems. There isn’t an air filter on the market that can protect us from what lies ahead. Money can buy the right to pollute, but money cannot buy clean air.
There is strength, wisdom and community when maternal voices join in a loud chorus. The only way to get strong regulations in place is to demand them. Moms hear the word regulations and we think, Good! That means protection. Republicans and Democrats have rallied around EPA administrator Lisa Jackson (the mom of a severely asthmatic son) because she has done a historic job of enhancing the Clean Air Act. We’re grateful for her vision and courage.
Most of us aren’t marching in the streets or getting arrested—yet. But we’re signing petitions, writing letters, meeting with our political representatives and letting them know: Listen to your mothers. We share the air. Stop polluting it.