My plane landed on Thursday night about 11:00 pm, bringing me back to my beloved San Francisco Bay Area for the first time in more than 2 years. I have lived on the East Coast for decades now, but my native state remains central to my being. If I go too long without visiting, I feel the pull of friends, family and place.
I rarely take trips without my family. I left my three children with my husband and set out for a visit that would culminate in attending the first fundraiser for Mothers Out Front in San Francisco. This time was meant for me to connect with important people, go for walks and hikes, take in my favorite views and the scents of eucalyptus and other familiar plants.
Arriving at my brother’s house at midnight, the scent of smoke was in the air but I thought nothing of it. The next morning our cars were layered with ash, and the smoke was thick enough that you could not see the famous San Francisco Bay Area views.
On a clear August evening in 2012, the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California caught fire. Residents remember the blue sky turning dark as toxic smoke filled the air around their homes. Although young people in the community have witnessed neighborhood gang violence, crime, and the deaths of family members and friends, that day made a lasting impact on them.
“Companies put their refineries in places where they think no one will notice if a few more people die,” Linda Scruggs, an 18-year-old Richmond resident, told me at the San Francisco rally to support the 21 young people, known as the “climate kids,” last week.
Linda Scruggs (left) stands alongside participants at the San Francisco rally to support the climate kids.
By Mother Out Front, Laura Haugh, in Washington State:
When I became a mother three years ago, I hadn’t anticipated how dramatically that new little life in my arms would reshape the way I approached the world. My actions and choices had more weight to them; it wasn’t just myself I had to think about anymore. Like any parent, I spend a lot of time thinking about, and investing in, my child’s future. I also spend a lot of time fearing what kind of world will she be growing up in and contemplating my role in shaping this world.
Here we are again. Almost exactly a month after my fellow Mother Out Front Jean Cummings wrote about the Four Ways Hurricanes Are Different as a Result of Climate Change in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, we’re witnessing the devastating results of Hurricane Michael.
Jean did an excellent job of connecting the dots between climate change and hurricanes, and others are demonstrating how Michael is yet another example of extreme weather and climate change, so I’m not going to go over that again. If you need convincing, please go read those articles then come back here. If not, stick with me to learn what we can do about all of this.
As Hurricane Florence makes her way across the Carolinas, we at Mothers Out Front feel deep concern for the people in her path who face a number of life-threatening perils. Eleven people have died three days into the ongoing superstorm. The weather system is moving very slowly at 2 MPH. Twenty-four inches (as I write this) of rain have fallen and more continues to fall. Rivers are expected to crest at up to 40 inches flooding communities. One million people are without power and many are displaced from their homes. People all over are asking, “What is happening?”
All of us at Mothers Out Front are holding our neighbors in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover in the Merrimack Valley close in our hearts as we watch the disaster of gas explosions and fires unfold across their communities.
We are deeply grateful to the gas workers, first responders, and others protecting homes and caring for the injured and displaced people. We also are concerned that all affected have the resources needed to face this situation.
Mothers across the state are reaching out to ask what they can do. We welcome all ideas for how we can support the families and children evacuated from their homes, especially those who won't be able to go home. Our members around the state are standing by to help in any way they can. We are looking at different ways that Mothers Out Front members and friends may offer support, and we will keep you updated. Please check our website and social media sites often to learn what you can do.
Going forward, we hope that catastrophes like this one will be prevented by more proactive maintenance of our state's leaky gas infrastructure while we rapidly transition off gas and other fossil fuels.
We, mothers and grandmothers and allies, work hard every day to accelerate the transition we need to renewable energy so that children will not have to face disasters like this one in Massachusetts or like the hurricane in the Carolinas.
Climate change has been impossible to ignore this summer. Extreme heat waves and droughts sparked fires around the world and cloaked California in hazardous smoke.
While less visible than orange skies and wildfire evacuations, our dependence on carbon-rich fuels is changing how our children are growing up. About 5.4 million Californians, primarily in low-income communities, live within a mile of an oil or gas well and breathe polluted air. Some children report near daily nosebleeds, dizziness and nausea. Poor air quality and extreme heat make outdoor play hazardous.
The Mothers of All Battles: How the Fight Against Climate Change is Being Led by Moms Across America
With gratitude to The Elders for giving a spotlight to the mothers' voice as we confront climate change.
You can join us for #RiseForClimate here:
More ways to get involved - https://www.mothersoutfront.org/rise_with_mothers_out_front
The news on the climate grows bleaker every day. In the United States, the current administration not only denies human-caused climate change, it actively works to roll back any progress made on environmental standards or climate change policy implemented in the past few decades.
Five short years ago, I founded Mothers Out Front with a handful of other mothers in the Boston area. We came together out of a deep fear of what the future held for our children in the face of climate change and a shared determination to do something about it. Today, we are a strong and growing movement of more than 19,000 mothers and other allies, with teams in nine states. It is clear that we must step up to fill the leadership void left by elected officials at the highest levels of our government—and that the opportunity to effect change lies at the state and local levels.
Why are Mothers Out Front members stepping up to protect all children from accelerating climate change? Because they feel at a cellular level the special vulnerability of the young to the emerging threats from climate change:
- The spread of tropical diseases caused by insect range expansion
- Air and water quality degradation
- More intense and frequent natural disasters
- Soaring heat, widespread drought, and more frequent wildfires
- Swamping of coastal areas caused by rising sea levels
- Agricultural failures
- Disruptions due to geopolitical conflicts and increased population migration
What mothers have known for years pediatricians from the American Academy of Pediatrics now confirm. The journal, Pediatrics, citing several studies on climate change and children’s health, concludes: “Climate change will disproportionately affect children and the poor…” CNN, in reviewing this article, states that “Children are estimated to bear 88% of the burden of disease related to climate change…”
There’s Sierra Club, 350.org, Mom’s Clean Air Force, Earth Justice and many other worthy organizations fighting to slow climate change. They all seek to decrease our dependence on carbon fuels whose burning releases powerful greenhouse gases. So why join Mothers Out Front as a member and volunteer?
I pondered this question the other day and came up with some answers for myself.
If I were looking at Mothers Out Front from the outside, this is what I would see...
- Mothers, grandmothers, and other nurturers with a laser focus on getting real things done on the ground in communities and states to slow climate change.
- A highly visible, high-impact presence at key legislative events, community meetings, industry events, and climate demonstrations.
- A record of successes exerting irresistible pressure on leaders and entities that stand in the way of efforts and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- A strong sense of the rightness of the cause and a willingness to work hard for it without resorting to hostile, belittling treatment of adversaries.
- A powerful and compelling brand: “Here comes Mothers Out Front in their black t-shirts, so pay attention and do something!”
- An aura of hope, power, and confidence that mothers will not be denied in their work to protect the health of children and communities by slowing climate change.