It is more important than ever for moms to continue doing what they have done throughout history: build a better world for our children.
The following is part of a series of opinion pieces Common Dreams is publishing in the lead-up to and aftermath of the March to End Fossil Fuels on Sunday, September 17 in New York City. Read the rest of the series and our complete coverage here.
Throughout our nation's history, mothers have been at the forefront of social change. From Anna Jarvis, the inspiration for Mother's Day, who pioneered the public health movement in the U.S. after losing eight children, to Mamie Till who sought justice for her son, catalyzing the civil rights movement, to Candace Lightner who created Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) just four days after her own daughter was struck by a drunk driver, mothers have continuously channeled their anger, fear, pain, and most importantly, their love for their children to fight for a better world.
This weekend, mothers from around the nation gathered for the March to End Fossil Fuels to demand an end to a growing, global threat to their children's health, lives, and future: climate change.
Mothers have had enough with corporations profiting and elected officials serving them instead of addressing the real human cost of climate change. The impacts of this greed and lack of concern for human life can be felt now. Asthma and cancer are rampantly rising in at-risk communities positioned near fossil fuel pollution, with low income communities and communities of color disproportionately bearing the brunt of the exposure and harms. The latest research shows that rising levels of global particulate matter pollution—caused by wildfires, the combustion of fossil fuels, and other factors—are cutting 2.3 years off of the average human's life expectancy, comparable to the impact of smoking. More than 100 million Americans were exposed to extreme weather conditions this summer, including record heat, deadly fires, and disastrous floods. Climate anxiety is rising, and kids and young adults perceive they have no future or that humanity is doomed.
Concerned mothers, grandmothers, and other caregivers of children are fed up with the status quo and refuse to allow the threat to our children's lives to continue to be ignored.
In fact, last month the United Nations affirmed these fears that the climate, biodiversity, and pollution crises present "an urgent and systemic threat to children's rights globally." Based on consultations with over 16,000 children worldwide, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child updated the 1989 Convention on children's rights to say that there is an urgent need to address the "triple planetary crisis" and to explain "how children's rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child apply to environmental protection, and confirms that children have a right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment."
UNICEF reported in 2021 that 240 million children are "highly exposed" to flooding in coastal areas, 400 million are exposed to cyclones and hurricanes, 820 million are exposed to extreme heat, and 1 billion are exposed to "exceedingly high levels of air pollution." We expect this to now be even higher in 2023. Approximately 1 billion children worldwide are at "extremely high risk" of being exposed to potentially deadly environmental and climate shocks. The organization proclaimed that the climate crisis is a child's rights crisis, meaning to me that it is more important than ever for moms to continue doing what they have done throughout history: build a better world for our children.
Concerned mothers, grandmothers, and other caregivers of children are fed up with the status quo and refuse to allow the threat to our children's lives to continue to be ignored. Change needs to happen now! That is why over the weekend, thousands of activists, mothers, youth, politicians,and everyday concerned citizens of Earth joined together to march outside of the United Nations and call on President Joe Biden to end the expansion of fossil fuels. Over 150 members of Mothers Out Front from Colorado, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, and New York, an inclusive movement where mothers' voices are front and center, showed up, joining over 10,000 participants to voice their concerns and demand change.
As world leaders plan to gather on September 20 for the U.N. Climate Ambition Summit, our fight continues. America is the largest producer of oil and gas in the world, and Biden must use the privilege of his unparalleled position as United States president to lead the world toward cleaner, less polluting energy options and eliminate the danger of fossil fuels.
An immediate and just transition to a more sustainable future can be achieved if President Biden and world leaders:
2. PHASE OUT FOSSIL FUEL DRILLING on our public lands and waters;
3. DECLARE A CLIMATE EMERGENCY to halt fossil fuel exports and investments abroad, and turbo-charge the build-out of more just, resilient distributed energy (like rooftop and community solar); and
4. PROVIDE A JUST TRANSITION to a renewable energy future that generates millions of jobs while supporting workers' and community rights, job security, and employment equity.
We mothers have not given up hope. A livable future is possible. If our nation's leaders, including President Biden, take real action by declaring a climate emergency and creating change that benefits the people over corporate greed, we can build a new legacy. One where a just and safe future for our children, grandchildren, and planet is not a vision but a reality, so that mothers no longer have to live in fear of what tomorrow's climate chaos may bring. Mothers will continue to fight for the lives of our loved ones, not backing down until we have policies that protect all children across the globe.