Mothers Out Front: Advocates for Change

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Tompkins Weekly 2-23-15

By Neely Kelly

“We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last that will be able to do anything about it.” -Rising Seas Summit Fall 2014

Russia 2010, 50,000 deaths from record-breaking wildfires. Catastrophic Mississippi River floods, American mid-west 2011. Widespread drought, United States 2012. Hurricane Sandy, 2012. Ever stronger and more frequent tornadoes: Alabama 2011, Missouri, 2011, Oklahoma, 2013. Australia, 2013, a heat wave so intense new weather charts were made. South Buffalo, NY 2014, seven feet of snow on one November day. Our state, our country, our planet, is experiencing a man-made climate crisis.

Mothers have a sacred duty to protect their children and their children’s future. Today, climate change threatens the future of all children. By burning fossil fuels to run our cars, warm our homes, keep our lights on, and farm our food, humans are warming Earth’s climate. The scientific evidence is indisputable: increasing numbers of extreme weather events, quickly melting polar ice caps, continuing rise of global mean temperatures and sea levels, and extinction rates exceeding anything seen in millions of years.

We can change this trajectory, but time is running out. Existing clean, renewable energy technologies can reduce and eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels. What’s missing, is the political will to do so. We mothers must organize and act now.

Mothers Out Front is a grassroots organization giving mothers, grandmothers, and allies the opportunity to organize and build power so our leaders will have no choice but to act to transition our society away from fossil fuels as swiftly as possible.

My name is Neely Kelley and I am the New York State Lead Organizer for Mothers Out Front. My daughters, Martha and Jessie, are in second and third grade. I grew up in Greenville, SC, but now live in Rochester. I was not always a climate change activist. In fact, I denied climate science; scoffing at scientists who claimed humans could permanently change earth’s climate by burning fossil fuels.

That began to change in 2001. I joined the Peace Corps and served in Gabon, Central Africa. There, I witnessed firsthand the irreparable damage humans can do to our planet. Logging the magnificent Gabonese tropical rainforests was a major industry for the country. I watched logging trucks roll through my village, carrying the biggest trees I’d ever seen—hundreds of years old, many feet in diameter, being cut down hour after hour, day after day, week after week. Witnessing this massive destruction, I began to think differently about the human impact on our planet. I felt distinct emotions: anger, sadness, and hopelessness. What could I, one individual, possibly do to change this? And my community depended on the jobs provided by those logging companies for its livelihood. The workers were the parents of my students. I didn’t want people to starve—but I didn’t want us to destroy the forest either. The problem was overwhelmingly complicated, and I felt utterly powerless.

Twelve years and two children later, I no longer deny the scientific reality of man-made climate change. As I watch and experience first hand our earth’s climate system grow more chaotic, I feel increasing urgency. What can one mother possibly do? Recycle? Drive less? Pay for renewable energy? Buy a Terrapass? We do all these things, but the system is not changing fast enough. Our leaders are not acting boldly enough. Without committed, collective action, transitioning away from fossil fuels entirely will not happen.

Mothers Out Front was founded in 2013 to give mothers a pathway to committed, collective action. It starts with house parties. In just two years, we have grown from two mothers meeting at a climate vigil on the Boston Common to a full-fledged organization. In Massachusetts we have engaged 1200 mothers through house parties, trained 150 active volunteers, and have established 10 Community Organizing Teams.

Last November, Mothers Out Front expanded into New York State, starting in Rochester. Through 12 facilitated house parties, we have connected with and engaged 85 mothers in Rochester and the Adirondacks. We have one local Community Organizing Team in Rochester, 15 active volunteers, 56 supporters and house parties planned in New York City and Tompkins County in March. This fall we will launch our first New York statewide campaign to transition the state away from fossil fuels as swiftly as possible.

Our movement needs you. And so I invite you to join us. Join us in building our power as mothers, grandmothers, and allies so that all children and future generations inherit a livable climate.

Sign Our Declaration.

Inquire about hosting a house party in your community.

Contact Abigail Mchugh-Grifa: to learn about March house parties in Tompkins County.

Neely Kelley is New York State Lead Organizer for Mothers Out Front.


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