April 21, 2011
Is it possible to be green without being political?
I've been thinking a lot about this recently, while working on the launch of a new campaign called Moms Clean Air Force. Our goal is to use the power of blogs and other online communications to reach out to, and energize, mothers and mothers-to-be — the people who have the most at stake in protecting the strength of the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act is one of the jewels in the crown of our democratic process. Since 1970, when it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon, the Clean Air Act has made it possible to make enormous progress in cleaning up air and water pollution. It is one of the best, most effective environmental regulations ever passed.
Last month, the EPA released new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which have been in the planning for twenty years. These standards will ensure that all coal-fired power plants cut down their emissions of poisons like mercury, lead, arsenic, and other toxicants. These plants are responsible for most of the toxic emissions fouling our air. The technology to clean the emissions exists — and it is cost effective.
But some powerful polluters and politicians in Congress are trying to gut funding for the EPA and weaken the Clean Air Act, including the new standards. "They are trying to unravel the legal fabric that has protected the health and safety of our families and our neighborhoods from dangerous air pollution for over forty years," warns Vickie Patton, EDF's chief legal counsel. "We face an unprecedented assault on vital, time-tested clean air protections for our children."
Supporters and opponents of the standards can comment on the proposed regulations. During this comment period, we must send a simple message to polluters, the politicians they work with — and to those who oppose them and need our support: We share the air. Keep it clean.
Over the past twenty years, scientists have learned more and more about the poisonous effects of air pollution. And it is most poisonous of all to the most helpless among us. Fetuses — whose brain architecture is still developing — and infants and toddlers are terribly vulnerable to the neurotoxins being spewed into our air.
The political threat to the Clean Air Act, combined with our growing understanding of the health dangers associated with pollution, make this what Patton calls "a defining moment" for our country. "Moms and dads, grandparents, uncles and aunts," Patton says, "all of us must reaffirm our commitment to healthy children, and clean air in America."
Everyone knows how vigilant moms can be in protecting their babies. There's endless activity online, in blogs, tweets, and Facebook postings, to prove it. Whether moms are looking for the right baby bottles, or having a sleeping schedule crisis, or confused about bed-sharing, help is a click away.
So it is puzzling that the same protective maternal instinct doesn't extend to the public world, where politicians and corporations often make decisions that have the greatest impact — for better and for worse — on our children's health.
There is actually very little in the blogosphere that directly addresses the political issues that should be of great concern to families — truly enormous challenges like toxic chemical reform, global warming, food safety, air and water pollution.
Moms Clean Air Force is dedicated to doing something about the pollution. We want to bring the power of moms — their numbers, their passion, their determination to keep their children safe — to bear on polluters and the politicians who endanger the health of our children.
When I began to talk to mom bloggers in the green community about our efforts, I was surprised by some of the responses. "Oh, we're not into advocacy." "We can’t do anything that would upset our sponsors." "Advertising dollars are too important to jeopardize."
Surprised? I was stunned. It was like the old days in the magazine industry, the days when we argued about whether or not to carry cigarette advertising, and if we did carry it, we argued about whether or not to run a story that made the advertiser so angry they would pull their expensive pages.
I began to wonder why people have become so wary of being viewed as "political"? What are we afraid of? What kind of sponsors would be upset by association with mothers who are fighting for clean air and water? In fact, why wouldn't they be using their political clout — and joining in? Surely the rapidly growing number of corporations that have publicly committed themselves to sustainability would understand the benefits of sound environmental regulations.
I also began to wonder what good does it do for any of us to buy "green" diapers, and BPA free bottles, and CFL bulbs, if we don't also attack our problems on a much larger scale?
All our individual choices won't make a dent in addressing toxic chemicals, or climate change, or air and water pollution, if we don't safeguard the regulations — and the government's power to enforce them — that make our world a better place. The only way to do this is to become politically active. That's at the heart of what it means to be a citizen in a democratic society.
At Moms Clean Air Force we've identified a wonderful, independent group of mom bloggers, and a dad, too, from all over the country. More bloggers join in everyday. Now we need more moms to make this movement powerful. We need to fight for clean air, by blogging, phoning, letter-writing, tweeting, and posting on Facebook pages — and marching if we must.
"We're just moms. We can't change the world," someone told me.
But we can. We're the ones who care fiercely about keeping our children safe. And when we're up against the billions of dollars being spent by the polluters, our determined hearts are our best weapons. They're pretty powerful. Now let's use them.
What You Can Do
Join the Moms Clean Air Force in the fight for our kid's health.