“We have every right to make our voices heard and to say that it is unacceptable to keep polluting our skies this way,” Moms Clean Air Force co-founder and Senior Director, Dominique Browning shared with the group gathered in the Old Legislative Library Room of the state capitol building in Nashville
We converged from all corners of Tennessee for the state’s first ever Mama Summit, an ambitious effort to keep clean air on the minds of lawmakers amid the haze of issues competing for their attention. In a state where one in ten children has asthma, and areas considered scenic destinations struggle with high ozone days each year, clean air is an obvious concern, although it doesn’t get as many attention grabbing headlines as it should.
Moms Clean Air Force joined with other concerned groups in Tennessee to urge the state to develop a clean power plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. In this state, the New Deal Era Tennessee Valley Authority has much to do with how power is generated. TVA has historically been an energy leader. Yet there is concern TVA should be doing even more to promote energy efficiency and clean energy solutions to counter the looming climate crisis. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal organizer, Chris Lunghino, told MCAF regarding TVA’s planning, “There really has not been as much energy efficiency and solar and wind power as we think there should be.”
Transportation has less impact than power plants on air pollution, yet it is also significant. Project facilitator Kristy Keel-Blackmon with East Tennessee Clean Fuels explained her organization’s mission to protect the air we all breathe, “Cleaner, alternative fuels are going to result in better air quality.”
Nashville Council Member Lonnell Matthews, Jr. addressed the Mama Summit with shared concerns about healthy air for his constituents and wise business opportunities in his district. “We work on smart growth and development that is sustainable,” Matthews said.
The Mama Summit was an opportunity for busy moms and grandmothers to take a day out of our ordinary routines to speak directly with some of our lawmakers. We’ve been asking for politicians’ support for clean air, no matter which side of the political aisle they are on. The MOMpartisan message is a powerful one that transcends political parties. Alice Demetreon brought her 3-year-old grandson along with her to the capitol building. MCAF Tennessee organizer Lindsay Pace brought her husband and toddler daughter, saying “As a mother, I have a moral obligation to protect this little girls’ health!”
Indoor air quality has been a priority for Franklin, Tennessee mother Daniela Kunz, who founded Parents for Students Safety because of concerns at her child’s school. Kunz joined the MOMpartisan effort along with parents from several different communities throughout the state, “It impacts everybody in one way or another. Clean air is so important indoors and outdoors.”
The moral obligation to speak up for clean air seems to be what binds all of us together in Tennessee. “We don’t think often about how the air our children are breathing is impacting their health,” noted MCAF National Field Director, Gretchen Delhkemper.
Several members of the faith community are sharing these same concerns about how air quality matters to the most vulnerable among us. Our tiniest babies, our elderly and those with physical challenges are certainly most at risk when Tennessee’s air quality suffers.
“People in Tennessee have an amazingly beautiful state,” commented Browning during her visit to the Tennessee capitol. “You have politicians who want to protect it. We want to support those politicians who are doing the right thing.”