Patty Cronheim is a native of the New Jersey shore, a celebrated jazz vocalist, a staff member (Campaigns Director) at the NJ League of Conservation Voters, and a member of the Mothers Out Front Health Impacts Advisory Committee.
Her earliest memories of connecting with the environment involved laying in the shallow end of the Atlantic Ocean, sitting under the big tree in her family’s yard, and realizing that there was a peace and stillness that swept over her whenever she was close to the water or the earth. “Children can have very spiritual experiences in nature,” she says. “That’s why I believe that all children should have access to green spaces, this is why I firmly believe that our green spaces must be preserved.”
You never know, she adds, when children can impact so-called adult topics.
Consider this: Always a composer and musician, at age 16 she wrote “The Ballad of Captain Eggplant” – it was about farmland preservation, circa late 1970s. It was her Dad who helped her write the lyrics and she performed it before 300 farmers. “I guess I have always been loved, cared for, and been involved with the environment.”
Fast forward a few years, Patty earned degrees from New York University and Columbia with emphasis in science and health. In addition to becoming a Mom – to two now-grown children – she has had significant involvement in environmental and climate issues.
Patty was a founder and worked as the Outreach Coordinator at ReThink Energy New Jersey where she helped foster the transition to renewable energy to reduce the use of fossil fuels. She organized communities across the state to help improve the health and safety of New Jersey residents by opposing fossil fuel projects like the PennEast Pipeline. She and others at ReThink Energy NJ fought the PennEast plan to build 118 miles of pipeline through New Jersey. And she has watched and worked as the challenge to the pipeline plan has twisted and turned through the legal system, ultimately landing recently at the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“If you had told me that this would have turned into a full-time career, I would have said you were crazy,” she recalls now. “But the fact is that I did nothing but fight pipelines and organize people for many years. Because of my health background, I knew the importance of the work. As an organizer, you get to talk with people and get to know people in community.” That’s the best part, she says.
What she has found is that hopes and dreams are compatible no matter where we live. “Health and safety concern us all: clean air to breathe, water that isn’t contaminated.” At the most basic level, it’s about one thing: those who will follow us as leaders on this third planet from the sun.
She was interested in joining the MOF Health Impacts Advisory Committee (which she absolutely raves about) because they understand these important issues. But there are other elements of Mothers Out Front activism that deeply resonate with her as well. “In the early weeks and months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when its job loss, economic security, even food insecurity, the Mothers Out Front members in my community were participating in food drives and food giveaways. It was humbling.”
She is also excited about the organization’s public awareness campaign around electrification. “They talk about it in terms anyone can understand. It’s about your gas stoves, your HVAC systems.”
Buildings are the second-highest source of dirty emissions and the number one source of pollution-related deaths in New Jersey. Imagine how much impact it will have if we can get people off methane gas, she asks.
Moms cook, she says, and Dads cook, too. But the decisions about what kind of appliances to have in the family kitchen, those decisions are typically made by Moms. “So, teaching about heat pump use for cold climates, about induction stoves and improving the air quality in your home; this is information we MUST get to Moms.”
Moms talking to Moms, she says, is more powerful than all the lobbying dollars, marketing dollars and skillful influencers in the world. That’s because Moms trust Moms and it will take mothers, grandmothers, and yes others, to save us from climate ills. “Power is in the grassroots,” she says, people power. “That’s why we need to fight like hell so that we can leave a viable planet for all our children.”