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Mother's Day

Celebrating Our Mothers: Ellen van Bever

Students and young people have literally stood before the world, leading climate strikes and other efforts to bring awareness to the need for change on climate issues. But they’re not the only activists calling for urgent action.

Around the world, mothers who are deeply concerned about leaving a livable plant for their children are standing beside them and standing out front.

On this Mother’s Day 2021, Ellen van Bever is thinking about her own mother, her three teenage children – and all children.

A native Californian, current resident of Massachusetts, accomplished worker for racial justice, and world-class Mom, Ellen’s Mom comes to mind first when she thinks about her earliest memories of environmental awareness.

“Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area, she would make sure we could go out hiking or to the beach. I remember, like lots of kids, not wanting to go for hikes or things like that. If my Mom had not introduced me to the natural environment in the way that she did, I would not have appreciated it in the same way. Looking back those memories are a foundational part of me.”

We can thank that strong foundation in environmental awareness for Ellen’s involvement as a founding member of Mothers Out Front. We can thank that strong foundational parenting for her continuing involvement as a member of the Mothers Out Front National Leadership Team. We can thank that kind of life affirming parenting for the nine years Ellen has spent, helping to build the organization while also working to build sustainability and equity in her own community.

For example, she helped build a food security program at her children’s school.

The program sent healthy food home for the weekend with students because often families need extra help when the school cafeteria is not available to them. She recruited other parents as volunteers. They picked up food, brought it to the school, loaded it into backpacks and sent it home with students on the weekends. The program ended when the COVID-19 pandemic began. But she has been lauded for her food security work and sees it as a part of an even bigger picture.

“Prior to having my children, I worked in higher education on issues of race and diversity. My concern about climate change is a concern about racial justice.”

How do the two issues intersect?

Historically and currently, she says, fossil fuels disproportionately affect indigenious communities, other communities of color, and communities where incomes might be lower. It’s an issue for the United States, she asserts, and a global issue that we must all be concerned about as well.

Emissions from chemical facilities are typically highest in communities of color and mobile sources of fossil fuel emissions, such as from the transportation sector, also disproportionately affect “frontline” communities. In 2019, nearly 84 percent of global primary energy came from gas, oil, and coal. She recognizes that over the next few short decades we MUST reduce this share by displacing fossil fuels and offering low-carbon energy sources as a replacement.

“It’s an imperative,” she says.

As a group of mothers working primarily at the grassroots, community and statewide levels, Ellen van Bever believes there is an opportunity for Mothers Out Front to engage many mothers, grandmothers, and others around the country and even the world – and lift those voices in such a way that they can never be muted.

She is insistent that the time is now.

“We are creating real change, but we’d like to expand our work. When people think about our children and our environment, they will automatically think about Mothers Out Front.”