ClimateMama had the good fortune to meet Janae Shields recently at The Museum of Motherhoodin New York City and we were impressed by her breadth of knowledge, passion and dedication to her work and her desire to create a better world for us all – a world that is just, sustainable, healthy and economically viable. We are so pleased that Janae agreed to be featured as one of our “Climate Mamas!”
Janae’s determination and commitment is “contagious” and helps to encouraging us to remain hopeful by learning how to take action that is both practical and positive – as individuals as well as part of and on behalf of the larger community. We love how Janae is so proud to share all she does with children and the fact that she brings her daughter to many events and programs she works on, as often as she can.
Join us as we sit down and hear what Janae has to say about climate change, motherhood and our future…
Current project/position/adventure: I am the Coordinator of Green Initiatives at Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey; a member of the Bronx Green Jobs Roundtable, and Vice President of the Advisory Board for the Museum of Motherhood. I teach the Roots of Success Environmental Literacy Curriculum to people on or applying for public assistance in New York City and I am on the advisory board for Samuel Gompers High School.
Parent or Grandparent: Parent of a 1 year old boy and 4 year old girl.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, the steps you took, life events, decisions you made, that helped you arrive at where you are at today? I went to grad school for Social Work with a concentration in International and Community Development at Monmouth University. Just before I graduated in 2009 my job (Goodwill Industries) sent me to the Good Jobs Green Jobs National Conference to figure out whether or not it would be worth it to prepare our Back to Work Program participants for “Green Jobs.”
While at the conference I heard Van Jones speak about Green for All and the “Green Economy.” I was incredibly moved when, at the end of his speech, I saw people standing together, crying and hugging. It was the only time during that whole conference where people from different socio-economic and racial backgrounds came together: in my eyes, bearing witness to a common truth. It was a special moment for me, and I felt like I had found a way to use my degree in the most effective way.
I immediately reached out to find out about Green for All and how to become a Green For All Fellow. I got accepted into the program and went to Oakland in the spring of ‘09 where I was fortunate to meet activists from all over the country who I began to build relationships with. I have been working on environmental education and organizing ever since. I was always a recycler and a petition signer but not always a person who put effort into making other people aware of environmental issues. My position at Goodwill allows me to research and develop training and partnership opportunities that will provide access for our participants to get Green Jobs.
What inspires you to keep going, to keep fighting this challenging battle against climate change? My daughter and son are the reason I keep going. I need to show them that when something is wrong we need to do what we can to correct the problem. I believe that NONE OF US have the LUXURY of not caring what happens to the future of this planet.
What are the greatest challenges and/or opportunities you feel the world faces with climate change? Society’s need for instant gratification and disconnection from the process of how things are made makes it really hard to change people’s actions.
Scientific predictions seem to be pointing to more frequent extreme weather scenarios, a shorter time frame for a warmer planet and all of the negative ramifications that this will bring. Yet here in the US, we still seem to be debating the “reality of climate change.” What will it take for us to “wake up” and do our part to avert these consequences? Sadly, it may come down to a major catastrophe or natural disaster and the impact that wreaks on people’s lives, livelihoods and loved ones – regardless of race, religion or socio-economic background.
Currently it’s too easy for too many people in North America to think this can’t happen “to me.” Even when Katrina hit New Orleans, many people felt it impacted the poor worst of all – somehow because they were poor. I heard from many people: “if they “would have had cars” they could have escaped the worst of the disaster.” People need to see that money can’t protect you from climate change. I’m sure that even the people in this country that argue against the reality of climate change know that it exists; it’s just that publically acknowledging it is not in their financial (or political) best interest.
What advice would you give to other Climate Mama’s and Papa’s, steps they can take both as individuals and collectively to help change the course we currently find ourselves on with climate change. Vote with your money since that is what our government and businesses seem to care about and listen to! Wherever possible buy products that have been developed and processed in a sustainable way. Pay attention to climate related legislation and say something when you see something is wrong. Reuse everything that you can. And stop driving 3 blocks to the store, walking will not kill you but global warming will….eventually!
Favorite book or movie? Green Collar Economy by Van Jones is one of my favorite books.
You may also want to meet Climate Mama Penny Bauder, who is currently featured on our website.