by Norah Vawter
Mother’s Day has taken on new meaning for me over the last few years, as it has for many of us in the Virginia environmental movement. Beyond our individual celebrations honoring the human mothers in our lives—we now have a call to action to protect the planet, Mother Earth. Organized by the NOVA Climate Coalition, the annual Mother’s Day Climate Rally is the largest gathering of environmental groups in Northern Virginia. I’ve been involved since the rallies began in 2017.
Each May we call for citizens to join together and mobilize for clean energy and a healthy climate—to save our children from the ravages of climate change and provide a livable future for all generations. The rally is cosponsored by over 20 local groups. This year’s virtual event, the 5th Annual Mother’s Day Climate Rally, will take place Saturday, May 8 from 2:00-3:00 pm EST.
Political action on Mother’s Day isn’t a new idea. The American Mother’s Day originated in the nineteenth century through the efforts of two activist women: Ann Jarvis, who worked to combat infant mortality and improve the health of mothers and children; and Julia Ward Howe, who issued a stunning Mother’s Day Proclamation summoning women around the world to protect future generations by outlawing war. The Mother’s Day Climate Rally invokes the activist origins of the holiday and reminds me that parenting is a political act. Fellow rally planner Bobby Monacella and I have each written about how motherhood motivates us to fight for climate action.
This has been a crazy year, and sometimes it’s hard to decide which issues to focus our activist efforts on. Of course, we’ve got to address the crises of racial justice, police brutality, the pandemic itself, and so many other issues. But because the climate crisis literally threatens the entire world, we can’t afford to forget about it. There’s a deadline: Scientists tell us that we must radically reduce emissions by 2030, or we won’t be able to stop climate devastation. And when we fight for climate justice, we also fight for racial justice, workers’ rights, public health, and the rights of populations at higher risk for severe COVID because of environmental risks in their community
At the 5th Annual Rally, we’ll hear from two giants of the environmental movement. Wenonah Hauter, founder and executive director of Food & Water Watch, has spent over three decades campaigning and writing for clean food, water, and energy. Bill McKibben, celebrated author and founder of 350.org, has been a key national leader of divestment and anti-pipeline campaigns. The lineup is rounded out by Harriet Shugarman, author of How to Talk to Your Kids about Climate Change and founder of ClimateMama; and youth activists Jerome Foster II, member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and founder of OneMillionOfUs, and Finn Fisk, political director of Sunrise Virginia. There will also be a Mother’s Day Climate Proclamation, music, a story time for children, and an action item.
We’re announcing a new goal at this year’s rally: a Congressional Resolution calling for a new Mother’s Day focused on climate action. Presently, we’re looking for Congresswomen to ask the bipartisan House Women’s Congressional Caucus to support this resolution.