One thing most people will become after joining the ranks of parenthood is “resourceful.” There’s all sorts of new information we need to pack in our brains, from raising healthy eaters, to assembling Lego sets a thousand times more complicated than the ones we grew up with, to helping our kids navigate their highs and lows. We learn ways to keep our kids safe from harm. We teach them how to swim, how to safely cross the street and how to stand up to bullying. And, maybe somewhat solemnly, many of us are beginning to come to grips with the need to add “fighting climate change” to our bag of tricks.
Climate change is already harming kids and communities across the country, through drought, wildfires, floods and extreme weather. The fossil fuel pollution that causes climate change is also responsible for the spiraling childhood asthma rate. And according to everyone from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the Pentagon, climate change poses a huge threat to global security and will contribute to severe water and food shortages throughout this century and beyond.
As much as this reality may make us want to lose ourselves in an episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants, parents have a lot of political influence over whether our country steps up and meets the challenge of rapidly deploying clean energy, or whether we allow the fossil fuel industry and its allies in Congress to bar us from doing so. In addition to political influence, we have another important tool at our disposal; the ability to raise kids who are ready and able to help transform our energy, water, food and land-use systems in a way that builds resilience in the face of climate change.
Parents are a huge and diverse demographic. There are 155 million of us, a fact not lost on politicians who curry the favor of “soccer moms” and “Nascar dads” during election season. We’ve exercised our political muscle on issues such as drunk driving, toxics and nuclear disarmament. The infusion of parents and families in the anti-gun violence movement over the last few years has been palpable and extremely effective. It’s hard to argue with the moral power of parents protecting their kids.
As the threats posed by climate change become more ever-present, more parent and family organizations are coming to see climate change as “their” issue, and the goal of “kid safe, climate safe” energy as one they are working to implement. For example, parents and families were well represented at the recent wave of EPA hearings held across the country about the agency’s proposed rule to cut carbon pollution from power plants, which produce 40 percent of our country’s emissions. And a huge “families contingent” is being planned for the upcoming People’s Climate March, expected to be the largest climate action in U.S. history. In terms of consumer behavior, parents make up the majority of the customer base of the nation’s largest residential solar companies.
How we orient ourselves as parents around issues of clean energy and climate change will have a big impact on how our kids do the same. Climate Parents exists to engage parents and families in a campaign to support the expansion of clean energy.
The organization promotes the idea that it’s possible to power our country with 100 percent clean energy within the next few decades — by the time many of our kids are our age. Earlier this year, Mark Jacobson, Stanford University’s Director of Atmosphere and Energy, released a detailed plan that specifically maps out how each of our 50 states can achieve this goal.
According to Jacobson, “The new map provides all of the basic information, such as how many wind turbines and solar panels would be needed to power each state, how much land area would be required, what would be the cost and cost savings, how many jobs would be created, and how much pollution-related mortality and global warming emissions would be avoided.”
When our kids ask us about climate change, or better yet, when we engage them in a conversation about it, this is the story our ever-evolving resourceful selves should be poised to tell. It’s the antidote to the fossil fuel industry’s narrative that renewables aren’t feasible or that society somehow can’t afford to invest in acting boldly to stop the biggest threat confronting our kids. We should tell our kids that attaining 100 percent clean energy within the next two decades is technologically feasible, and that it’s our job and theirs to push back on any and every political obstacle that blocks our path.
The Solutions Project is a nonprofit initiative that is educating Americans about the fifty-state roadmap for 100 percent clean energy, and it’s a great resource for families. It was founded by a small team of change makers, including Jacobson and actor and activist Mark Ruffalo, who is better known to our kids as The Incredible Hulk. While adding “organizing for climate solutions” to our overflowing parental plate may seem a little daunting, it’s increasingly necessary. And, it’s an opportunity to channel our inner Super Hero as we work to protect the real Super Heroes in our lives — the ones we tuck in at night.