March 27, 2017
Prepared by Renu Bostwick
A Massachusetts Mothers Out Front team had the fabulous opportunity to spend 30 minutes with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. A team of 6 prepared stories, thought hard about what we were asking of her, and prepared to listen to what she had to tell us. We asked Senator Warren to indulge us by listening to our stories, which followed with a brief discussion on what was possible in the national conversation surrounding climate change. Climate change and its relation to health rose to the surface as something Senator Warren could start speaking about. She left us with the request to give her more information about how climate change is affecting our collective health.
Here are our stories …
I’m Zeyneb Pervane Magavi. As the daughter of an immigrant married to the son of immigrants, as the mother of three daughters ages 13,11, and 6, and as the wife of a scientist, I have a lot of personal stakes in the mayhem in DC right now. Despite this, my number one issue is climate change, and I want to share with you why I choose to volunteer so many hours to co-coordinating the Cambridge team of Mothers Out Front.
Thirteen years ago, I looked into Maya’s bright eyes for the first time, and realized that this magnificent being was in my hands, that she trusted ME absolutely to protect and nurture her, now and forever. I fed her, cared for her, tried to sleep train her, and felt like I was doing a pretty decent job.
Then, a couple years in, I discovered that her bottle was leaching hormone disrupters into her warm milk. That the mattress I tenderly tucked her in for bed was carcinogenic – that even her adorable ducky feety pajamas were soaked in carcinogens. My own trust in the powers that be was deeply violated – I had unknowingly put her at UNNECESSARY risk, avoidable risk, for what? Someone’s bottom line?
Fast forward a year and I have a tool belt on and I’m co-contracting the renovation of our new home… and researching every building material, every glue, every board to reduce VOCs, carcinogens, etc. In building healthy, I was also building green and I increasingly understood there was NO LINE between the health of humans and the health of our planet. I did the best I could, but still my effort came up short of my need as a mother to protect and nurture my children - because the largest threat to my children’s future is the air, the climate, outside of my home’s walls, and I, alone, did not have the power to change that.
For years, I lived with that, thinking there was not much more I could do, until I started volunteering with Mothers Out Front. Our Cambridge team, last year, labeled all the gas leaks in town and got a lot of media attention to the issue of leaking methane. It was exciting, and together with our allies’ efforts gave us the leverage to get in the room with our local utility executives.
So, it was three of us moms on one side of the table, and three energy executives on the other. We started, as we always do, with a brief personal narrative of what motivates us – our children’s future. In response, one of them shares that he too has kids, and that they have been talking to him about climate change. They explained that they want to switch coal generation to natural gas to save carbon - that we all care about our kids future. We left that meeting with a commitment from the utility - to work together with us to identify, measure, and fix all the super emitters in Cambridge this spring, potentially reducing methane emissions 50% in our city. I left understanding that we -- every one of us, every action and word -- taken together have the power to effect change at the scale we need. Mothers Out Front gives me this gift... an opportunity to fight for my kids’ future and win - and my kids know.
My 11 yr old came home telling me they had talked about climate change in science class. The kids were pretty upset, she said, so she tried to make them feel better. She told them about Mothers Out Front – that the moms were on it – a LOT of moms, so it was going to be ok.
I’m Kelsey - I’m the co-founder of Mothers Out Front. From Zeyneb’s story you can understand how we’ve been able to quickly grow our movement. Our approach of engaging mothers taps into and builds on the extensive networks that mothers develop through their children’s schools, their churches and their professional lives. After having our first house party just 4 years ago, we now have 16 community teams across Massachusetts that are working on campaigns to address climate change in their communities, ranging from fighting proposed fossil fuel infrastructure to fixing gas leaks to promoting renewables. And we have a statewide leadership team that coordinates our statewide campaign. At the end of 2014, we expanded into New York State, where we have 10 community teams, then last spring into Hampton Roads, Virginia, California and Ohio. We have mothers reaching out to us from states all across the country, and we will be supporting teams in 5 to 7 more states in 2017.
Our message and approach resonates with mothers of all backgrounds: we have progressive affluent moms in Boston, MA and San Jose, CA; Republicans in Orange County, CA and the Southern Tier of NYS; African American mothers in the second largest public housing facility in Norfolk, VA; Puerto Rican moms in Southside Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We’re united in our deep concern about the kind of world our children are growing up in. We’re united in our shared sense of outrage that we’re all the victims of an unfair, rigged, fundamentally immoral energy and economic system that enriches the fossil fuel industry and keeps us dependent on dirty forms of energy that hurt our children’s health today and are destroying our children’s future. And we’re united in our conviction that together we are powerful, that together we can stand up to those who are enriched by the status quo, and create the kind of future we want for our children.
I’m Renu Bostwick, one of the coordinators of the Mothers Out Front team in Bedford. Just as Kelsey said, I’ve been working hard to create the kind of future we want for our children. I also work with our church on climate justice issues and recently volunteered to read stories to the children in Sunday School. Another Mothers Out Front church member has developed a short curriculum for elementary school aged kids related to how climate change happens so that we can all be prepared to do what we can for climate justice. So I was reading books to different age groups last week. It just broke my heart to see them get quiet and the look of worry on the children's faces (including the youngest kindergarteners) any time there was any mention of how temperatures rise. They know that there's a crisis looming. But the moment I asked them, "Well, what can we DO about it?" their faces lit up. They became animated and came up with all sorts of great suggestions.
One thing the children don't understand, though, is that the whole energy system needs to become more just in order for them to have any future at all. We see the lobbying power of the fossil fuel industry with which they get government assistance. We see the rubber stamping of new fossil fuel infrastructure by FERC and other agencies. We see some great legislation getting compromised away. All of these are killing our children's chances for having a livable climate. Working on climate change is really about working on the injustice of this energy system we are stuck in and is not just an "environmental" issue. The systemic changes we need for energy fairness are the same changes we need for economic fairness. They both start with standing up to the bullies: the bullies of the fossil fuel industry and the bullies of the economic world.
Climate change is an injustice to the working class people of our country, and it’s an injustice to our children. Those that climate change will affect the most are the ones who have the least power to change the situation. The working class do not have the resources to invest in the renewable energy boom that we need, nor to pay for storm cleanup, nor to relocate when seas rise. Allowing climate change to happen unchecked is certainly an injustice to our children, as well. Those Sunday School children I was with last week all knew many of the changes we need to make in our society. But by the time our children are old enough to make these essential changes, it will be too late to turn the tide of the carbon that is already in the atmosphere and the climate that is already changed. We need your help.
So as you can see, our work is your work. Your work is our work. Climate change, immorality, injustice and inequity are all intrinsically linked.
We understand that Senator Markey is the Massachusetts voice with regard to climate issues, and of course division of labor is essential to getting anything done. But we believe that your powerful voice needs to be heard on climate issues. They are your issues, just in a different wrapper.
So our ask of you is pretty simple: please make climate change a part of the justice conversation. Please talk about climate change more publically and more often, integrating it into the issues you so powerfully lead on – issues of justice, standing up for the little guy, and rejecting corporate greed. The
And what would that sound like? Like this: When you speak about giant corporations cheating their customers, you could mention Exxon’s campaign of disinformation on climate change, a multi-decade campaign that has cheated our children out of a livable future. When you speak about the importance of standing up for the little guy, you could mention the fact that low income communities are repeatedly bearing the brunt of the impacts of our fossil fuel economy - in MA that means pollution generated by power plants and compressor stations resulting in high rates of asthma.
We, in turn, can steer our powerful grassroots network to amplify your voice - across Massachusetts and across the nation. We want to hear from you just what your needs are, and we want to work together with you to bring the power of the mother’s voice to strengthen your message.
Our Short Introductions
Electa is the mother of twins, age 16, and the Executive Director of Mothers Out Front. Electa lives in Boston and is part of the JP Mothers Out Front community team, whose current goal is fixing the super emitter gas leaks in Boston.
Marilyn Ray Smith:
Marilyn is concerned about the impact of climate change on her six grandchildren and on subsequent generations. As a political activist, she was drawn to Mothers Out Front by their transformative mission to wake up Americans to the consequences of climate change, having first seen them in action tackling gas leaks -- which not only spew methane into the atmosphere but also kill trees. This meeting presents an opportunity to open channels of communication and develop a mutually beneficial relationship to motivate Americans to take action. She hopes that Senator Warren can find ways to use her position on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to focus in particular on the impact of climate change on the health of our citizens, especially our children.
Sue is a mother of two, soon to be grandmother of two, and a retired philosophy professor. She lives in Cambridge and serves on the Massachusetts Leadership Team, which oversees and supports the work of all of our Community Teams, and also the work of three Task Forces: Pipelines, Gas Leaks, & Renewables.
Renu is a mother of two teenage daughters. She works as a software engineer and lives in Bedford, where she is chair of a very active Climate Justice Group at her church and also co-coordinates the Bedford Mothers Out Front team. One of the team's current efforts is working towards a Net Zero plan for Bedford.
Kelsey is a mother to two daughters, ages 12 and 10 and a successful entrepreneur who co-founded the company that makes Invisalign. She currently lives in Cambridge where she co-founded Mothers Out Front four years ago, and serves on the National Leadership Team overseeing and supporting rapid expansion into new states.
Zeyneb is a mother of three daughters, ages 13, 11, and 6 and worked in global health before returning to school to do a Masters in Sustainability. She lives in Cambridge and co-coordinates the Cambridge Mothers Out Front team, whose collaboration with Eversource Gas to identify, study and fix the largest gas leaks hits the streets this April.