If you ask Dominique Browning, she’ll tell you there’s one group Washington politicians don’t want on their bad side: mothers.
“It’s up to us to tell Washington that it’s time to listen to their mothers,” Browning, a clean air advocate from New York and co-founder of Moms Clean Air Force, told a room of Charlotte community members Thursday night.
After three years of collaborating on how to inform communities about climate change, Moms Clean Air Force came to town this week and teamed up with local volunteer organization Clean Air Carolina to educate Charlotte families with a panel of environmental experts.
A mother of two, Browning felt she wasn’t given all the facts when it came to air pollution and global warming. Instead of weeding through the confusing words and complex descriptions the scientists were rattling off, she wanted to hear what was happening to the environment and how it would impact her family.
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“Nobody was talking to real people like me, who want to understand what’s going on,” Browning said. “We see that things are warming up and things are changing. But we don’t really understand the science, so we want to understand what’s going on and what we can do instead of feeling hopeless.”
That’s why Browning co-founded Moms Clean Air Force, a group of more than 380,000 community members that pushes legislators to take measures to reduce air pollution.
To June Blotnick, director of Clean Air Carolina, all environmental issues are children’s issues, so the two organizations work together seamlessly.
“I’m a mother of two. And when my son was young, I did have to watch him struggle through an asthma attack, and it was very scary,” Blotnick said. “Once you have a personal experience with a child struggling to breathe, it’s not difficult to take the next step towards action.”
Given Charlotte’s prominent energy presence, several people questioned the panel about how best to inform their families about climate change, pollution and global warming.
“We’re helping to frame the message of climate change as something that’s important to families,” said Gretchen Dahlkemper-Alfonso, Moms Clean Air Force national field manager. “Parents need to come together with politicians and companies like Duke Energy, and work together for our future generations.”
Psychologist Meg Houlihan encouraged the audience to have conversations about nature with young kids, but with caution. Three-year-olds don’t need to hear the planet is in distress, she said.
Instead, toddlers should be taught to appreciate the beauty of what’s around them.
“The next generation is going to inherit this mess that we’ve made. I don’t want to feel guilty about it. I want to feel powerful about it,” Browning said. “The point is not guilt. The point is power.”