By Emily Pickett, Moms Clean Air Force
Growing up in rural Florida, I spent my weekends outside, exploring the banks of the canal leading from my family’s marina out to Crystal River. While my parents attended to tourists from around the world who came to swim with the local manatees, I swam in the river, climbed trees, fished from the seawall and even canoed across the canal to my grandparents’ woods.
These experiences instilled a sense of wonder and appreciation for the world around me. From an early age, I understood the need to keep our environment clean, protect endangered species and preserve ecosystems since our family’s livelihood depended on it.
Jumping ahead 20 years to 2016, I’m a stay-at-home mom with two young sons. The pervasive influence of political polarization was becoming prolific, raising concerns about the world my children would inherit if we continued down the current course. I began to see societal issues from the perspective of my children and vowed to find ways to be part of the solution.
One problem I couldn’t ignore was climate change and the disinformation tied to it. So, when I got the opportunity to become the Florida organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, a community on a mission to protect children from air pollution and climate change, I jumped at the chance to put my time and energy into this crucial cause. Additionally, since I grew up intimately aware of how pollution impacts water quality, I was eager to help protect Florida’s waterways by way of combating air pollution.
Priority No. 1 in Florida’s fight for clean air is advocating for a shift to clean energy. We’re addressing this on two fronts: urging Florida lawmakers to transition away from natural gas and promoting the adoption of electric school buses.
While many are aware of the health risks and environmental impact of burning fossil fuels, not everyone recognizes their own everyday reliance on the climate-warming gas. I wrote about this issue in September as part of our campaign to raise awareness among Floridians about the state’s heavy dependence on natural gas for electricity, which accounts for 75% of our energy.
We petitioned Florida families by asking them to join us in advocating for clean energy like solar to power our homes instead of natural gas, and our efforts resulted in delivering 400 signatures to Florida lawmakers. This is just the beginning of our growing movement throughout the state to demand a just transition to clean energy.
We’re also on a mission to get each of Florida’s 500,000 school bus riders on electric school buses. The health risks associated with riding diesel buses are concerning and can hinder learning, particularly for children with asthma.
Beyond the most vulnerable impacted, because exhaust fumes inside a school bus are often more concentrated than outside of it, all students and bus drivers are exposed to harmful pollution every single school day. Therefore, we are promoting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program, which is providing $5 billion to schools nationwide to help transition away from diesel buses. We are proactively contacting school districts throughout the state to ensure they are aware of this significant funding opportunity.
While I can’t recreate my own childhood experiences for my children, I aim to chart a new course for them. We strive to embrace a green lifestyle centered on conservation and take every opportunity to immerse ourselves in our state’s natural beauty. And, I attempt to lead by example through my advocacy work with Moms Clean Air Force.
As we expand our presence in Florida, we invite you to join our community. We depend on dedicated volunteers to share their stories, emphasizing why clean energy matters, and help convey our messages to communities and lawmakers. I hope you’ll consider joining our force to help ensure Florida remains a safe and healthy place for our children and future generations.
Emily Pickett is the Florida organizer for Moms Clean Air Force.