My MOMpartisan button from Moms Clean Air Force may very well be the hottest accessory of the season! It’s an easy conversation starter to explain that children’s health and other clean air issues matter to all of us, since no matter what our other differences, we all breathe the same air.
It was refreshing to gather with other moms, dads and grandparents in Tennessee’s state capitol building in downtown Nashville to speak up for this MOMpartisan concept of clean air for everyone! This state hosted its first ever MCAF Mama Summit with several environmental health partners.
As Tennesseans, we can all be proud of our God-given natural resources like our mountains and rivers. Unfortunately, visitors to places like Great Smoky Mountains National Park need to know that vulnerable people like the one in ten children with asthma may be at risk on some of the remarkably high ozone days that the area experiences. While it’s reasonable to be concerned about pollution and related climate change endangering our natural resources themselves, parents know that nothing else matters if our kids can’t breathe easily and grow up healthy.
The Mama Summit was a gathering of ordinary people like you and me taking the time to speak with Tennessee lawmakers from both parties about the importance of health-promoting clean air and steps to implement a clean power plan for the state.
Other speakers at the Mama Summit included Parents for Students Safety founder Daniela Kunz and Nashville Council Member Lonnell Matthews, Jr. Here’s what I shared at the Mama Summit:
Genesis 1:31 from The Message translation states from the Old Testament creation story, “God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good!”
In the New Testament, Mark chapter 12 verse 31, New International Version, Jesus says “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Many of our East Tennessee neighbors are sick, and it turns out there may be a connection to how we’re all falling short on Creation care.
The American Lung Association reports over 121,000 cases of children with asthma in Tennessee. Hundreds of thousands of adults suffer from asthma or COPD. We know unborn and newborn babies, those with chronic diseases, and even the elderly are at greatest risk from air pollution.
When Tennesseans signed our Moms Clean Air Force cards that our family carried to Washington, DC last summer for the Play In for Climate Action, I was amazed at how many families I met with asthma or other breathing problems in their household did not necessarily have smoking in the home.
There’s no smoking in my house, but we’ve had several years now of keeping a rescue inhaler on hand for my youngest child, just in case. As a toddler, she had previously reacted to household chemicals, and once I eliminated those, she seemed fine. As her mother, I can do my part to clear the household air, by being really mindful and seeking safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. But it, of course, takes collective action to clear the air outdoors, where our children should be able to safely run and play.
As you probably know, those with asthma or other heart and lung challenges are especially susceptible to the pollution known as ground level ozone – it’s a known asthma trigger. Knox, Blount and Sevier Counties in East Tennessee all get an F – failing marks – from the American Lung Association, for their number of orange Air Quality Index days, when the air is deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups. These are our children, these are our elderly veterans, these are our neighbors. How are we caring for them with the collective decisions that are being made about air quality? Climate change, left unchecked, is expected to only increase dangerous ozone levels.
Tennessee’s children, expectant mothers, and the elderly certainly deserve better than air that gets failing marks for high ozone days and could exacerbate health risks. Clean air and healthy residents should be a priority in the Volunteer state!
Whether or not you subscribe to my Christian belief that we have an obligation to be stewards of God’s Creation and to love our neighbors, I pray that you can find common ground in the moral obligation to care for one another, to care especially for the most vulnerable among us.
We can start by clearing the air of dangerous pollutants. We can encourage clean energy solutions, whenever possible, that not only keep us healthier in the short-term, but help prevent more climate-driven disasters like we’ve already seen in the US, when climate extremes fuel the potential for more destructive patterns from droughts to floods and more. In the quest for clean energy, we can’t afford to fool ourselves, either, by overlooking the air and water pollution being documented around natural gas fracking operations.
I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to meet today with Tennessee legislators… and am grateful that they are listening. These messages, need to be heard again and again, not just today, but on an ongoing basis, so that Nashville, as well as Washington, knows that Tennessee moms are paying attention to energy policy decisions that affect our children’s health and their futures.
I pray that as a society, more decisions could be made with a focus on healthy people, on healthy environments in which they can thrive, and on healthy economies that can only flourish to their greatest extent when the health and well-being of the people has not be compromised.
Since climate change and its related impacts mean serious health risks, especially for our children, the time to act on climate and demand cleaner air is now.