This Mother’s Day, the climate fight is personal

Amanda Leland

Somehow, we’ve made it to another Mother’s Day. The second pandemic Mother’s Day. And we are not only still standing, we are pressing forward.

As Alicia Keys sings, moms have been “the engine that makes all things go” during this pandemic — despite our exhaustion, worry and extraordinary efforts to keep our families safe and healthy. To fight the monotony and anxiety unleashed by social isolation. To fortify our children’s mental health. To motivate them through day after day of Zoom school.

We’re pressing forward because that’s what moms do.

My own family’s story, and yours

I’ve had it easier than many. My eight-year-old daughter, Teagan, got COVID-19 right before Christmas, but she made it through OK. I was stretched so thin that I felt like I didn’t do anything well, but my husband and I have good, stable jobs that we can do from home. We all went stir crazy but we have a backyard where Teagan and her little brother, Simon, can play in the fresh air.

Mothers have always been ferocious protectors of their families. We have a fierce desire for a better world for our children. And that means we have to be fierce in protecting the planet from the existential threat of climate change for the sake of our children.

Four-year-old Simon inhales the outdoors. He’s a budding scientist — he loves getting muddy and playing with bugs. Teagan, who has special needs and is in a wheelchair, adores being outside, too. I want her to be healthy and have access to good health care and all the things she needs to thrive. I want them both to live in a world that is safe and secure and free from conflict, which will only worsen as the world gets hotter and people have to compete for precious resources like food and water.

But on this Mother’s Day, I have more confidence than ever that we can make the bold changes needed to prevent the most drastic climate impacts.

Reasons to be hopeful but still act today

President Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris climate treaty and his recent pledge to cut U.S. climate pollution to at least half of its 2005 level by 2030 give me hope. This is not just ambitious. It’s absolutely necessary.

So too is the Biden-Harris infrastructure package now being considered by Congress. As the political wrangling unfolds, we must put pressure on our representatives to do the right thing: Rebuild our pandemic-damaged economy in a way that protects our children and their children from the most severe consequences of climate change while addressing historical racial inequities in access to clean air and water.

We moms have to act — before it’s too late.

You may be thinking, I cannot add one single thing to my overflowing plate. But taking small steps for the climate can give children hope and quell their anxiety about the warming planet. To borrow from Eleanor Roosevelt, change begins “in small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.”

So here are some simple activities you can do with your children to enrich their day and raise their awareness about climate change and what’s needed to overcome it.

How to seize Mother’s Day with your family

We’ve been cooped up for far too long. For this Mother’s Day, let’s go outside with our kids and appreciate nature. Take a photo of your beautiful family outside and tag it with @environmental_defense_fund or @cleanairmoms on Instagram so we can share widely and celebrate together.

Plant some flowers with your family if you have a yard or, even better, plant a sapling and explain that trees help stop climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air. If you don’t have a yard, take them for a walk in your favorite park. Or walk a city street together and point out the trees, grasses and weeds — all the places where nature is poking up through the hardscape.

When you get home, grab the kids and watch this inspirational four-and-a-half minute video of American poet and activist — and first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate — Amanda Gorman reciting her magnificent poem, “Earthrise.”

At bedtime, read them Peter Brown’s The Curious Garden, appropriate for children ages 3 to 8, or Brendan Wenzel’s A Stone Sat Still, which is listed for ages 3 to 5 but is also a great platform for discussing climate change impacts with school-age children.

When the kids are asleep or otherwise occupied, join EDF’s community of 2.5 million supporters who take bold climate action with the click of their mouse, and check out the good work of our friends at Moms Clean Air Force.

And proudly tell your kids what you’ve done. It’s really that simple. Happy Mother’s Day.