Moms Rally Again, This Time for Clean Air
In 1980, they organized as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In 2000, they called for stronger gun laws in the Million Mom March. In the early 2000s, they became a voting-bloc identity known as Soccer Moms, and later in the decade, Sarah Palin rallied Grizzly Moms to her side.
Presenting, the newest incarnation of politically-active matriarchs: the Moms Clean Air Force, a growing legion of women (and men) who have joined forces through cyberspace and the U.S. mail to campaign for tighter regulations against toxic substances polluting the air.
“No one wants to make mothers angry,” said Dominique Browning, an acclaimed author who founded the group earlier this year with the Environmental Defense Fund. “If we can generate numbers as we continue to grow, our voices will get louder.”
Currently, close to 40,000 moms, and probably a few dads, have joined the cause.
Their focus is safeguarding the Clean Air Act, the omnibus legislation passed in 1963 and amended in 1970, 1977 and 1990 as a directive to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate airborne contaminants. The act sets limits for pollutants that foul the air, damage lungs and, in the view of most weather scientists, contribute to climate change.
In recent years, the E.P.A. has come under withering attack for some of these same regulations, which critics say stunt the economy. Some opponents want to eliminate the agency altogether, or, at least, weaken its powers. Their arguments have gained new attention in the midst of a presidential campaign.
Even President Obama has allowed for delays in implementing new standards rather than risk creating an impediment that is perceived by some as an obstacle to growing economy.
And so the Mothers are responding, with a campaign designed to fight any Congressional action that would weaken the Clean Air Act, including the new emission standards for mercury.
“Moms come from a place that is non-partisan,” said Browning. “Air pollution is not just dirty; it’s poisonous. Mercury, benzene, arsenic – these things are pouring out of smoke stacks. We’re talking about children’s health, quality of life issues.”
By implication, the Moms Clean Air Force is encouraging the use of cleaner technologies. The worst air pollution still comes from vehicles and fossil fuel burning sources, like coal-fired power plants. By advocating for stronger emission standards, the Moms are supporting newer, cleaner approaches to energy use.
The Moms’ campaign is largely conducted through its website, momscleanairforce.org. Browning and a team of bloggers offer insights and opinion through their posts, framing the issues as a parent would see them.
The team includes Ronnie Citron-Fink, a frequent writer on environmental issues who serves as managing editor of Moms Clean Air Force; Elisa Batista, a co-founder and co-publisher of the parenting website MotherTalkers.com; Jill Miller Zimon, an Ohio mom who has a joint degree in law and social work from Case Western Reserve University; Marcia G. Yerman, a New York-based activist and artist; and Molly Rauch, a Washington, D.C. mom who works at Physicians for Social Responsibility on environmental health policy issues.
Browning, the mother of two sons, blogs for the Moms, writes books and contributes frequently to such publications as The New York Times, W, Wired, Whole Living, and Good Housekeeping. She has also been an editor at Esquire, Texas Monthly, Newsweek, and House & Garden.
“Basically, we want to do two things, educate and activate,” she said, pointing to Moms as a demographic that sorely needs more information about what their kids and pets are exposed to. Mercury, for example, is found not only in tuna, but lots of other fish.
“We’re always trying to find ways to write about the subject of air pollution and why you should care about it at home,” she said. “That kinda takes it out of politics because we’re about how it affects kids and animals.”
The second part of the campaign is urging members of the Force to sign petitions to send to members of Congress and other elected officials. “We want people to let their Representatives know that we care about clean air,” she said. “We want them to know that we’re watching you and if you support our causes, we’ve got your back and if you don’t, we will express our displeasure.”
And remember, no one wants to make mothers angry, right?