Raising the alarm about asthma attacks, infectious diseases, premature deaths, and other health impacts of climate change, more than 700 moms and kids gathered to hold a “Play-In” protest. The event took place on July 15 in a park on Capitol Hill and was organized by Moms Clean Air Force. The families called for action on climate change and air pollution, and also demanded climate solutions like renewable energy and federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
In making the case for more federal action on climate and air pollution, organizers and speakers emphasized the monetary health benefits of taking action. For every dollar invested in cleaner air and a more stable climate, American families could see up to $7 in health benefits. The family-friendly Play-In protest included family activities, such as dancing, hula-hoop challenges, yoga, giant puppets, and storytelling.
“More than ever, children need to move and be active. Climate change makes that harder to do, because it will lead to more polluted air, more pollen, more asthma, and more heat waves,” former WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist Chamique Holdsclaw said at the press conference. “Climate change and air pollution have a huge influence on the health and fitness of millions of American children. Our kids need clean air so they can play outside without getting sick.”
Particularly among Black children, already at risk from air pollution, climate change is expected to contribute to asthma attacks and other respiratory issues. In 2014, almost 2.4 million non-Hispanic Blacks reported that they have asthma. From 2012-2014, Black children had a death rate 10 times that of non-Hispanic White children and a greater likelihood of being admitted to the hospital for asthma, as compared to non-Hispanic White children.
“Poor air quality puts millions of Americans at risk and is an environmental justice issue that disproportionately impacts communities of color, such as the African-American community where African-American children are twice as likely to be hospitalized and four times more likely to die from asthma than others,” Dr. Erica L. Holloman, founder and CEO of Ayika Solutions and coalition coordinator for the Southeast CARE Coalition, told the crowd. “For our children, this is a life-and-death issue.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under President Obama, has established new platforms including the Clean Power Plan, which encourages states to embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy. In addition, the agency’s Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) offers rewards to businesses whose investment in wind and solar generation implemented in low-income communities deliver results during 2020 and/or 2021.
“Our children are coming into contact with contaminants that are in the air of public housing, old schools and libraries, and our auto exhaust. We’ve got to get a handle on it now,” Michelle Howard-Dully, a Ward 7 mother of two, who attended the rally, said. “We must be concerned that our children will not lead their best lives if they have to drag oxygen machines and nebulizers behind them because the air is so foul. It’s our responsibility to fight for them.”