by ecoAmerica’s Special Projects Director Judy Mills
Opportunity is knocking for us to activate the Americans most likely to fight to the death against continued dependence on fossil fuels: Moms.
You already know how moms of many species will fight to the death for their offspring. ecoAmerica’s psychographic research of Americans vis-à-vis climate concerns also shows that moms are one of the most likely groups of Americans to take up the fight for climate solutions if those solutions are advantageous for kids.
A call to arms for this tenacious, influential demographic group appears in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Of all places, the daily record for climate denial is spreading the word via a lengthy story in its Health & Wellness section.
The piece is a treasure trove of motivation for moms, if we use it well. That is, if we emphasize the health benefits of climate solutions rather than the health risks from climate problems. This is borne out in research by ecoAmerica and the Center for Climate Change Communication.
The bottom line, according to the WSJ is, “the tailpipe exhaust from cars and trucks – especially tiny carbon particles already implicated in heart disease, cancer and respiratory ailments – may also injure brain cells and synapses key to learning and memory.”
And the damage may even occur while a child is curled inside Mom’s womb. “The mother’s exposure – what she breathed into her lungs – could affect her child’s later behavior,” Frederica Perera of Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health is quoted as saying.
Here is just a sampling of the potentially influential “goodies” from this article:
- Just 30 minutes of breathing street fumes can change activity in parts of the brain “responsible for behavior, personality and decision-making.”
- Breathing city traffic exhaust for 90 days can “leave a molecular mark on the genome of a newborn for life.”
- “Children in areas affected by high levels of emissions, on average, scored more poorly on intelligence tests and were more prone to depression, anxiety and attention problems than children growing up in cleaner air.”
- “Children born to mothers living within 1,000 feet of a major road or freeway in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento were twice as likely to have autism.”
- “In New Jersey, premature births, a risk factor for cognitive delays, in areas around highway toll plazas dropped 10.8% after the introduction of E-ZPass, which eased traffic congestion and reduced exhaust fumes.”
- There is more. But the clincher is, “Scientists are only beginning to understand the basic biology of car exhaust’s neural effects, especially from prenatal or lifetime exposures”!
I am not suggesting we download all of this on moms. Scaring them will motivate a few and send the rest back to the blissful it’s-not-happening-to-me-or-mine world of climate change denial. We could start by suggesting moms and moms-to-be avoid areas with high emissions. Better yet, we could encourage them to help reduce emissions in the areas they frequent to ensure their kids score higher on intelligence tests and are less prone to depression, anxiety and attention problems. Lower emissions equal smarter, healthier kids. Pretty soon, moms may be demanding that America switch to electric cars!
If we talk up avoiding risks to kids and ensuring healthier kids through clean energy, we might just ignite a million-mom movement with the influence and tenacity to wean a nation from the “second-hand smoke” of our fossil-fuel addiction.