Thursday, July 18, 2013

I want a livable planet for my kid: One Southie mom's thoughts on climate change

Hey there residents of Planet Southie, it's Stefanie.

Some of you know me from Planet Southie meetings (I usually facilitate). This is a very different kind of blog post. 

Olivia and me
We usually blog about boring (but important) stuff, like meetings. Ultimately, the topic of climate change is a personal one, so this is a very personal post. It's also very long (sorry) and kinda intense (yikes). While climate change evokes images of far away polar bears and icecaps, the reality of it literally hits home when we start to think practically about what it means for our community and our families (more extreme weather, power outages, disease, stress, scarcity, etc.). Because my background is in public health and human rights, I tend to focus on how climate impacts people (not that I don’t love polar bears too).

As many of you know, Aaron and I became parents last year. You may have met our beautiful daughter Olivia (especially if you ride the #9 bus!). Since Olivia's arrival, we have felt an even greater urgency to confront climate head on. About three years ago, we started Planet Southie with hopes to connect with our neighbors to cultivate homegrown solutions (and it's worked!), but we have shied away from the term “climate change” out of silly worries over controversy. Time to stop worrying what people think and just go for it.

I’ve recently become involved with a new group called Mothers Out Front for a Livable Climate.  They asked for input from moms to help write a “Declaration of Protection For Our Children Against Climate Change.” I was asked to answer a set of questions and I was surprised at how emotional it was for me to put my thoughts down on paper (well, typed on email, to be exact). Below are some excerpts. It's feels very personal, to do so, but I share them here with the hope that some moms will read it, feel less alone, and get involved. If you want, use the comments section below to answer these questions for yourself. FYI: If you want to debate climate change, there are much better places to do that. Here goes!

1) What kind of world do you want for your children and grandchildren in the age of climate change?
I want a healthy hopeful future for my one-year-old daughter Olivia. I want easy access for her and all people to clean water, air and food; a good home and a good life. I want her to feel safe knowing that the people in charge of protecting our health are doing their jobs. I want her to know freedom -- including freedom from fear of ecological collapse and scarcity. I want to protect her. I want Olivia to know she is loved so deeply and that Momma and Daddy are working hard for her life to be a good one. I don't want her to have to fight for these things.  I want to know this is possible.

I want her to experience a vast diversity of plants and animals in forests, canyons, fields, rivers, mountains and oceans. I want her to be part of a nurturing community and sustainable economy based on renewable energy and jobs with dignity. I want her voice to truly count.

2) What challenges (societal/political/economic, etc) do you see as standing in the way of that vision?
It makes me cry to read what I wrote about the world I want for Olivia because I don't know if it is even possible and that thought breaks my heart. I believe that the biggest obstacle to this hopeful future is the entrenchment of policy and systems that lack justice or empathy. I am frustrated because the hard-fought mechanisms that we have to change these policy and systems are now so toxic and dysfunctional. I believe that our democracy has been hijacked by corporations that put profit before people. Regulating them to stop destroying us seems to be an impossible task sometimes.

I believe policy and systems change is vastly more important than individual behavior change. While riding bikes, recycling and planting trees (all doing "our little part") is essential, it is only a drop in the (increasingly acidic) ocean compared to real systems change. That is what I want.

3) What do we need our political leaders to do to ensure this vision happens?
Political leaders need to let the people lead, not the corporations who lobby them. My ancestors include some of the Founders of this country. We all inherited a government to be run for the people by the people. It's that simple.

Policy-makers need to help
 We the People extract corrupting money from politics. They need to grow up, be strong men and women, and fight alongside us to wrestle our government back. They need to support our efforts for campaign finance reform, overturn Citizens United, champion policies to hold polluting corporations accountable and shift to renewable energy.

Part of that process is for our legislators to disentangle themselves from the fossil fuel industry that is stealing our future; they need to support clean sustainable energy and stop projects that are already poisoning us (like the
 Keystone Pipeline and fracking). Politicians need to be our allies and champions as we rebuild a healthy hopeful world for our children. They need to remember their humanity. They need to remember how much their mothers loved them.

4) What is the power we have as mothers to protect our children's future?
Mothers hold a truth so big, simple and beautiful that it needs no words. It only needs an image we all know: a mother and child.

We protect and love our children. We need not justify this absolute.

All mothers in every place in every time have wanted a healthy and hopeful future for our children. And thus we have the power of one another as allies; fueled by the instinctive connection that we have with all mothers and children.

5) What are words that evoke your feelings about the climate crisis, the hope you have for your children and grandchildren, and what mothers/leaders need to do to get there?
My hope and what we need: Connection, empathy, ingenuity, creativity, love, justice, dignity, inclusion, thriving. Encouragement. Peace. Affinity, trust, authenticity, acceptance. Determination.

6) Additional comments?
Thank you. Let's do this.
[end of questions]

OK, yeah. A bit of a rant, I know. So, that’s what I wrote and that’s why I’m so eager to connect with moms (and others!). I’m going to be organizing some opportunities for Southie moms to connect. Please email me if you want to learn more. Also, the July 25 Planet Southie meeting will focus on climate change, we hope you will join us. If you feel moved to do so, please feel welcome to answer the questions yourself in the comments section below (whether or not you are a mom).

Thanks for reading this very long post. 

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