As a mother of color, I often think about the way climate change impacts on my health. I worry about what my children will face as they grow up, as the effects of climate change on people’s health are not only physical, but also mental and emotional.
Growing up in Detroit, I was a victim of one of the United States’ most toxic zip codes in regard to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, I am constantly thinking about ways to keep my family healthy and safe in the face of climate change and growing more and more cautious about the kind of environment where I want to raise my children. That’s why I’ve started living a more sustainable lifestyle that always puts health, education, and clean energy practices first.
Climate change is a public health issue that disproportionately affects low-income populations and communities of color. A recent EPA study found pregnant women are especially vulnerable to the health effects of climate change. This includes heat stress, air pollution, and extreme weather events. The study found that these climate issues can lead to adverse birth outcomes, including preterm birth and low birth weight. The findings underscore the need for policies to protect pregnant women from the health impacts of climate change.
Now that I am pregnant again, the desire to make some sacrifices now to accommodate how climate impacts our family, tugs at my heart even more. Here’s why:
The health impacts of climate change on people of color, women, and children
According to the EPA study, pregnant mothers are more likely to suffer from heat stress, respiratory problems, and mental health issues because of climate change.
Here’s how I’m protecting my family:
- I changed my environment by moving into a healthier climate. Then I started making small changes in my lifestyle, like walking to the store instead of driving, using public transportation and car-pooling more often.
- I began shopping at the local farmers’ market and our community co-op grocery and deli store for fresh produce.
- I’m unplugging all electronics when we’re not using them and keeping lights off during the day.
- My family are members of the Clean Energy Alliance, where we have chosen 100% green power as our preferred energy option.
I understand that change starts small. Along with making sure my children are eating healthy food and getting plenty of exercise to maintain their overall health, I’m teaching my children about the dangers of climate change and steps they can take to protect themselves from the harmful health risks. I do this in our homeschooling programs, including creating worksheets and books for them. An unexpected twist is that I found out my family actually enjoys this new lifestyle, and we don’t miss the old one at all!
Solutions to address the health impacts of climate change on mothers, women, and children
- Providing universal healthcare and higher education opportunities to all women helps us understand what is happening now and in the future. We’re also able to care for ourselves and our children better.
- Improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities in low-income communities, like Detroit and Jackson.
- Promoting and providing renewable energy sources and options to all families.
At the end of the day, mothers and their children have hopeful options, and with continued research, advocacy, and policy changes, we can find more ways to protect our families from the harmful effects of climate change.