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Mnookin: Parents As Activists

Megan Polyte, courtesy
Mother Up! families meet with Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman before presenting to the Climate Solutions Caucus.

Recently, my family joined dozens of others from Mother Up!: Families Rise Up for Climate Action, a project of 350Vermont, to make a presentation to the Climate Solutions Caucus at the State House .

Marlboro’s Robin MacArthur described how “As parents, we want many things for our children: health, happiness, love, meaningful work. But not one of those things matter if the world we gift them… is inhospitable to life.”

Mary Beth McNulty of Burlington, spoke of her “eco-anxiety” and the dangers of “paralyzing fear.”

She supports individual actions such as consumer choices, but she also called for political leadership, saying that “As a state, we can do so much more to slow the impact of global climate change.”

Katie Wilson, a mother from Brattleboro, emphasized that she’s “raising a young Vermonter who you may very well see in this State House in the future.”

And an eight-year-old from Richmond, Sophie Freebern, bravely stood to read her handwritten testimony: “I want a good Earth for EVERYONE!...Kids want a better world, so please continue to work on climate change.”

Following this visit to the State House, I’ll be continuing to facilitate monthly meet-ups in Brattleboro - similar to those that happen in Montpelier and Burlington - where families learn about the underpinnings of the climate crisis, build relationships, share stories and concerns about the climate, and engage in meaningful actions.
There will be childcare, a homemade vegetarian meal, and opportunities to get more involved in national, statewide, and regional issues, such as Brattleboro’s voter-led plastic bag ban.

Given the global magnitude of the problems we face today, many parents feel a sense of despair and powerless to act.

The challenges of family life often prevent parents from becoming climate activists or movement leaders.

And I’ll admit it can be difficult to be both a mother of two young children and a Mother Up! organizer, but I firmly believe that parents must be advocates for the health and safety of our collective future.

In her testimony for the Climate Caucus, Carly Reitsma, a mother from Putney, observed that “[h]aving kids seemed like it was probably one of the most extreme acts of hope,” and she described how this act demanded her to “focus on solutions” - like rising up to mobilize others, including our elected officials, to take bold action to secure our future and that of our children.

Abigail Mnookin is a former biology teacher interested in issues of equality and the environment. She is currently organizing parents around climate justice with 350Vermont, and lives in Brattleboro with her wife and their two daughters.
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