Moving to DC nearly 14 years ago was a conscious decision; I wanted to live in a place where I would be surrounded by people from all over the world, by arts and cultural institutions and by opportunities to engage in public policy activism. Since developing health issues a decade ago and especially since becoming a parent, I have more than once thought a slower pace of life might be healthier.
This summer, though, I’ve been reminded how great it is to be so close to the action. In just the past three weeks, I’ve been able to hop on the Metro at 9:30 a.m. to show my support for an issue at two national events organized by Moms Clean Air Force and still be back in time to pick up the kids from day camp.
The first was the July 9 Play-In for Climate Action on the Hill, which I covered for my new website, Mindful Healthy Life of Metro DC. Although it would have been nice for my children to participate in the action, they were living the summer dream I had for them: playing outside nearly all day in camp in Vienna, Virginia at Eastern Ridge School, a place where children are truly connected to nature in a way that they just don’t get in public school. Breathing (sort of) fresh air!
It was inspiring at the July 9 Play-In to see so many other kids making up a wall of signs at the press conference, contributing to an army of clean air activists in front of the Capitol, and walking the halls of Congress delivering messages from around the country to legislators, asking them to support legislation toward clean air and to support the Environmental Protection Agency‘s proposal to place restrictions on power plant emissions.
This week, my kids had camp again when there was another reason to head back downtown, this time to Federal Triangle, to show support directly for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Taking place during two days of public hearings, the rally drew hundreds of people sporting signs and t-shirts that called on the government to support the EPA’s plan to require limits on power plant emissions.
I loved listening to 7-year-old Erika Trippel singing “This Land is Your Land” with Mt. Ranier, Maryland-based folk duo Emma’s Revolution and later “Sing for the Climate” with her mom, Sunny Trippel who plays with two bands in Ashburn, Virginia.
It was also inspiring to hear 8-year-old Logan join his mom, New Jersey field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force Trisha Sheehan, in leading the chant of “What do we want?!” Answer: Clean air! Sheehan was to testify later that day at the EPA hearings.
The event was emceed by the energetic Terra Pascarosa, the Moms Clean Air Force Virginia organizer based in Virginia Beach. She had made the trek up to DC for the July 9 event with 22-month-old son Brady, staying just a day then, and two days for this trip. Talk about taking mothering and activism on the road!
I don’t know how she did it, but I wish I’d shot a photo of him sleeping soundly in a stroller after the event was over. DC field organizer Julie Hantman left her two-and-a-half-year-old at camp, too for the morning. Even though my kids missed both July events, at least Julie knows they are real, having met my son at the DC Green Festival in June.
These recent events have helped educate me on issues that didn’t seem as connected to me earlier this year when I offered to sit on a newly-formed committee in my children’s school district focusing on asthma and environmental health. A subcommittee of the greater district Safety and Health Advisory Board, our new committee is looking at issues of school air quality and children’s health from a number of directions.
I’m so glad to have connected with Moms Clean Air Force and hope to delve more deeply into their work as I try to make my children’s school a healthier place for everyone.
And I am certainly going to be paying more attention to issues around climate change in general after all I’ve learned recently. I’m not sure if I can make it up to New York for the big People’s Climate March on September 21, but I’ll certainly be paying attention!
With my persistent health issues, I sometimes I wonder why I remaining living in an area that is so high-stress and has such bad air quality.
But when I attended this week’s rally with its rousing speeches that connect the dots around power, health and justice, it felt like my way-back past as an environmental educator, my more recent work on social justice issues and my most recent work on holistic health were all coming together.
And I was glad to be where I am.
Jessica Claire Haney is thrilled to have her windows open to hear the crickets on a cool July night. She is the founder of Mindful Healthy Life of Metro DC, a new resource site for natural-minded parents, and is also the founder and a co-leader of the Arlington/Alexandria chapter of Holistic Moms Network. She has two children, and her personal blog is Crunchy-Chewy Mama.