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The Idiocy of Explaining the Importance of Clean Air

March 31, 2017

Our Philadelphia-based Editor-in-Chief, Mollie Michel, recently took an advocacy trip to Harrisburg to meet with her local elected officials to talk to them about the importance of clean air, clean water, and the regulations that help keep our families safe.


I’m standing in a hallway at the Pennsylvania state capital with a group of moms sporting Moms Clean Air Force (MCAF) t-shirts and getting prepped for a meeting with our State Senator. We’re there to address a bill that’s being considered in Harrisburg (Senate Bill 175) that aims to relinquish our state’s ability to regulate methane emissions from existing natural gas and oil sources and hands them over to the Feds. You heard that right. A Republican State Senator in Pennsylvania has put forth a bill that gives regulatory control of air pollution – specifically methane pollution – over to the Environmental Protection Agency, which, as we all know, is currently run by someone who doesn’t particularly believe in the value of the Environmental Protection Agency. And you may all have read about a certain executive order that the current occupant of the White House signed earlier this week, rolling back Obama era regulations, so it seems pretty clear how relinquishing that control will go for Pennsylvanians (and Americans in general).

But, I digress. Back to the hallway at the statehouse in Harrisburg. The MCAF Pennsylvania Field Organizer, Christine Dolle, is giving us the lowdown on the bill that we’re fighting against, and coaching us on how to best advocate to our Senator in the few minutes we have in his office. She says, “just explain to the Senator why clean air and water are important to you.” We groan and roll our eyes. Not because this is bad advice, but because it is GOOD advice. We actually have to explain why clean air is important. This is where we are. This is what we’ve been reduced to.

If I tried to explain to my kindergartener why we need clean water, she’d look at me like I’d sprouted a third arm. Because it’s obvious, right? Wrong. Today, we talk about clean air and we’re accused of being liberal snowflakes who want to kill jobs. People (still) throw around words like “clean coal”, and gently explain (mansplain) to us that the workers in some of our toxic natural gas wells are “thankful that they have a paycheck”, when we express concern about the safety of their working conditions. We’re treated like cuckoo women when we complain about lead poisoning in our kids’ schools’ drinking water, and dismissed, lied to, and ignored at every turn.

Since when did clean air and water turn into a political football that Democrats and Republicans can punt back and forth as it suits them? Since when is the fact that asthma has reached epidemic proportions in our children something to be taken lightly? And, why, in the name of all that is good, is the fact of climate change even up for debate?

Every day, as I send my kids off to school, I tell them to remember to be leaders. Be leaders in your classroom; be a leader on the playground; be a leader in the lunchroom. Set a good example.

And now, I am asking the same of my elected officials during my near daily calls to their offices. Please be leaders. Stand up for all Americans. Protect us from the harmful effects of climate change. Protect us from wrong-headed and ignorant ideas about science. Keep us safe.

Because – guess what – a wall on our southern border does not make us safer. More guns do not make us safer. Do you know what does make us safer? Clean air, clean water, and investment in renewable energy sources that don’t pollute our earth and hasten the effects of climate change. Now, more than ever, we have a responsibility to make as much noise as possible for as long as it takes to protect our kids.



Mollie Michel, Editor-in-Chief of A Child Grows USA, is a South Philly resident and a Philadelphia public school parent. A recovering non-profit professional, Mollie is also an experienced birth doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, and the mom of two awesome girls and a sweet pit bull named Princess Cleopatra. In her spare time, she is usually trying to figure out how Pinterest works, training for a(nother) half-marathon with her dog at her side, or simply trying to keep up with her increasingly wily daughters.