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TerraPass, Moms Clean Air Force Talk Climate Change and Our Kids' Futures

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By Nancy Bsales, TerraPass

Climate change is not in some far off future: It’s happening now, and we are already feeling the impacts. That’s one reason why a group of moms is trying to get parents to take action on what they see as the greatest threat to their children’s health and future – the air pollution that causes climate change.

Moms Clean Air Force is a national organization of more than 500,000 parents, committed to fighting air pollution. When TerraPass learned that Moms Clean Air Force was bringing parents from around the U.S. to Washington, D.C., to educate lawmakers about climate change, we wanted to make the July 2015 Play-In for Climate Action carbon-balanced. This family-friendly protest against the air pollution causing climate change showcased what is at stake as temperatures and sea levels rise: our kids.

TerraPass had the pleasure of working with Moms Clean Air Force, and I had the pleasure of speaking with Molly Rauch about the organization's mission and how to get involved. We are thrilled to share their story and ways to get involved in the movement.

TerraPass: Tell us about the roots of Moms Clean Air Force? How and why did it start? And how many chapters do you have in the U.S.?

Molly Rauch: Dominique Browning founded Moms Clean Air Force in 2011 with the idea that moms, when united, are a powerful force for good. She wanted to harness what she calls the power of “mother love.” Moms are passionate about our kids’ health and future. We want clean air; we want strong pollution standards; and we want a world safe from runaway climate change.

If we can raise awareness of how these issues threaten our kids, and if we can raise our voices, we can make a difference. In addition to our national efforts, we now have chapters in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

TerraPass: What do you think is the biggest threat to our kids today?

MR: Climate change. Climate change is already devastating the lives of thousands upon thousands. It’s making heat waves hotter and longer; it’s fueling forest fires; it’s contributing to severe storms. It’s changing the vectors of diseases like malaria and Lyme; it’s making allergy season longer and more intense; it’s impacting some food crops, and it’s flooding coastlines.

As this process continues, we may experience food shortages, disease outbreaks, increases in heat deaths, more asthma attacks, civil unrest, mass migrations and electricity shortages.

Or, we can take this opportunity to create the future that we want our children to inherit.

TerraPass: What is the mission of Moms Clean Air Force?

MR: Air pollution isn’t just dirty. It is toxic. We are a national community of moms and dads united against air pollution – including the urgent crisis of our changing climate – to protect our children’s health. We arm members with reliable information and solutions through online resources, articles, action tools and on-the-ground events.

TerraPass: How do you leverage the influence of moms and dads to move your mission forward? What are the obstacles? What are the advantages?

MR: We provide opportunities for parents to learn about pollution and take action to stop it. We aren’t doing this for polar bears or leopards, even though we think they are wonderful. We are doing this for our beloved children. We tap into the deep well of love that parents feel for their children, and parents in turn respond with the energy, confidence and motivation to speak up.

We now have over 570,000 parents who have joined our fight. When policymakers, lawmakers and corporate leaders hear the voices of all these parents, they feel the heat. They make better decisions. Ultimately, they help protect our kids.

Our members email, call, write and meet face-to-face with decision-makers at all levels of government, from local to national. They also have opportunities to meet and talk with each other through our local chapters and on-the-ground events. They attend public hearings. They attend rallies. Or they click and sign our petitions. We welcome participation of all kinds. Naptime activism – quick actions you can take while your child is napping – can make a huge difference.

TerraPass: If you could have every parent do one thing to support fighting for our kids’ health, what would it be?

MR: Right now, states have an incredible opportunity to craft blueprints for how they are going to implement America’s Clean Power Plan, a recently-finalized rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by power plants across the country. It’s the largest step our nation has ever taken to combat climate change, and its success hinges on the constructive participation of states.

I would like every parent to call his or her governor. If every mom told her governor that she cares about climate change, and why, that would make a huge difference. States need to hear that parents want to limit climate pollution, and that we want to transition to cleaner energy.

TerraPass: How is Moms Clean Air Force taking these issues to Washington? Tell us about the Play-In.

MR: For the past two summers, we have held our Play-In for Climate Action on the grounds of the U.S. capitol in Washington, D.C. This summer we had 500 participants playing, singing, dancing, chanting and generally having a great, family-friendly day – while learning about the importance of taking bold actions to combat climate pollution. Families from dozens of states then visited their lawmakers’ offices to continue the conversation. It was a truly inspiring day.

We also bring our message to Washington in other ways. When there are public hearings on issues that affect our children’s health, we ask our moms to come and share their stories. We are trying to put a human face on the issue of air pollution. That face is your child’s face.

TerraPass: What are your goals for the next year … next decade?

MR: We are focused with urgency on creating a potent demand for meaningful climate action. We want to see every state submit a State Implementation Plan for America’s Clean Power Plan. We want to see strong methane emission standards for existing oil and gas industry sources. We want a strong international agreement to come out of the Paris climate talks in December. And we want to reach new parents, to help them see how climate change impacts their own children, and how they can help turn the tide on this public health crisis.

Over the next decade, we want to be laying the groundwork for a just transition to a fossil-free economy by building public support for clean air and healthy kids.

TerraPass: Share a story of why this is so important.

MR: At our Play-In, the Rev. Dr. Yvette Griffin of Detroit shared the story of how her granddaughter died last year from asthma complications. She was 13 years old. Asthma deaths are rare, but they happen, especially in African American communities.

Climate change is going to make asthma worse, for three reasons. First, heat makes asthma worse. Rising temperatures will make it harder to catch a breath. Second, plant allergens like ragweed pollen trigger asthma attacks. Guess what? Climate change is making pollen season longer and more intense. Third, climate change is predicted to increase levels of industrial air pollution like smog and soot.

That’s going to mean more asthma attacks, more lung infections, and more coughing and shortness of breath, and more tragic deaths like the Rev. Yvette’s granddaughter.

TerraPass: What can parents change in their lifestyles to ensure a better environment for their children?

MR: At Moms Clean Air Force, we focus on civic engagement, because we think we need a large-scale mobilization to address the problem of climate change. But individual actions are important, too.

We can line-dry our clothes. We can wash our clothes in cold water. We can weatherize our homes. We can choose energy-efficient appliances when we purchase new ones. I’ve also been thinking about the co-benefits of driving less. What an amazing opportunity it is for our health if we fundamentally transform our transportation system. If we walk and bike more, and create communities where these forms of transportation are realistic and accessible to more people, we can improve public health tremendously. Some of our most intractable health problems – heart disease, diabetes, and obesity – will decline if people walk and bike more.

These lifestyle changes can have huge personal and society-wide benefits.

TerraPass: What steps should parents take to join in this mission? How can parents be activated? Tell us where to start to get involved.

MR: Join the Force by signing up for weekly emails from us. We’ll share resources, invite you to take action, and keep you up-to-date on key policy developments. We also nurture a vibrant Facebook community, so you can join us there to learn more and connect with others who care about these issues. Let us know if you want to do more. We are always looking for parents who want to take action to protect our children’s health and future.

Image credit: Moms Clean Air Force via Facebook

Nancy Bsales has worked in Sustainable Solutions at TerraPass for the last 8 years. Follow Nancy on twitter @NancyBsales or give her a call at 973-743-5374.

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