If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that I woefully underestimated my multi-tasking skills.
Somehow I managed to maintain a marriage, a full-time job, virtual school for a 9th grader and pre-k student, writing, resting, and household chores all while being bombarded daily with the realities of COVID-19, racial inequity, climate change, an election and a new administration—clearly I had undervalued my superpower to get stuff done. I know I am not alone.
As we prepare to enter a new era of climate action, we do so under a cloud of sedition, domestic terror and unrest that rivals anything we have read or experienced in our lifetimes, and it’s not over. Daily we’re watching and waiting; constantly on guard for what we pray never happens, while preparing our families if it does.
Still, parents across America are no strangers to making hard decisions, and we do our best to replace the words, “either, or” with the word “and.” We expect our leaders to do no less. We cannot fail to address the clear and present danger of injustice, white supremacy and its effect on our nation’s government.
At the same time, we cannot afford to allow one second to pass without solid, transformative, science-based climate action. We can and must do both at the same time.
We can focus on climate justice while demanding that members of Congress address the horrendous actions of Jan. 6, 2021. Our democracy demands accountability if our country has any hope of reconciliation. Impeachment actions should move forward promptly in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Plus, the Senate should support swift confirmation of Biden’s climate cabinet, ensuring there are no roadblocks and that they waste no time getting to the business of protecting our children and our environment. This is not an “either, or”: Both can and should be accomplished. If families with multiple children can navigate scheduling of various class times and work, I’m sure our leaders can coordinate their calendars.
Even within the environmental policy sphere, we need a multitasking approach. We can clean up the mess left behind by the Trump EPA and build upon existing regulations such as the Clean Air Act and The Civil Rights Act with respect to environmental justice.
It’s no secret that the new administration will inherit a dirt-covered tangle of knots to undo upon arrival. It’s like the first time your precious new baby has that first big diaper “blowout”—you know it’s coming, you can hear it, you can smell it, and sometimes it seeps out into view, but you don’t really get the magnitude of the problem until you go to change the diaper. But you don’t not change the diaper!
Thankfully, Biden has tapped an incoming climate cabinet filled with experienced, trained and knowledgeable people who know how to clean, fix and build at the same time. We have roughly 18 months to make a difference, and together, we can do it.
We need the incoming Biden administration to go big on Day One: Roll back the dangerous and fiercely inequitable changes made to our environmental protections, and re-establish science-based goals for reducing emissions across various sectors.
We can support local efforts of sustainability from our mayors and community leaders and require that the federal government integrate environmental and climate justice, with dated benchmarks of progress.
We can support green infrastructure, electrification of vehicles and other legislation that moves our country toward a net zero emission well before 2050 and restore confidence and transparency into the governing process. It’s called multitasking, and it’s no longer a superpower—it’s a required skill set to ensure the protection of our environment and children’s health for the future.
Multitasking is now mandatory.
This piece was published in cooperation with MOMS Clean Air Force, a community of moms and dads united against air pollution—including the urgent crisis of our changing climate—to protect our children’s health. Heather McTeer Toney is also on the board of directors of the Mississippi Free Press.
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