As part of our Climate Mama journey, we have been privileged and honored to meet so many amazing and inspiring Climate Mamas and Papas from all around the world. These parents are working to raise attention to the climate emergency, advance solutions and speak truth to power at any and every opportunity; they do this for their children, and for ours as well. Maya Mailer is one of these extraordinary Climate Mamas.
Our posts this spring have focused on coronavirus coverage. We are sharing stories that compare, contrast and combine our shared and unique experiences, feelings, actions, hopes, and resiliency as they relate to both the coronavirus and climate emergencies. Do you have a story to share? Let us know.
Here is Maya’s Earth Day story, first shared on Parents For Future UK.
This Earth Day, the fight for our shared home has never been more important*
by Maya Mailer
Like so many of us, I have experienced a tumult of emotion in the face of the pandemic and lockdown at home with my young family. In this moment of collective vulnerability, we are reminded what is at stake.
The coronavirus crisis is revealing truths about the fragility of our systems, the strength of our communities and what is truly essential. Amid social distancing, countless acts of solidarity are taking root. We are finding ways to be together even though we have never been more physically distant. My ordinarily friendly, but reserved street feels transformed. We are coming together to drop off food for elderly neighbors, singing happy birthday from our front doors, organizing family-friendly ‘pub’ quizzes via zoom, and clapping together for the National Health Service (NHS).
As a parent to three energetic young kids, lockdown can be exhausting and overwhelming. My partner and I seek to reassure, entertain and educate. I miss and worry about the kids’ grandparents and wonder when I’ll next be able to give them a hug – they, in turn, are denied one of their greatest pleasures: cuddles with their little grandchildren. But I have never been more aware of our privilege or felt more fortunate.
We live on the edge of London – our local park backs onto fields and canals. Going to this expanse of green each day has made all the difference. The toddler potters barefoot through the grass, picking daisies. The older two tear around, shaking off the stir craziness.
Almost everything that made up the kids’ daily routine has stopped: no school, playdates, birthday parties, football or visits with beloved grandparents and aunties. But we still have our park. Being out in nature, seeing and smelling blossoms, hearing bird song, spotting squirrels and rabbits is about so much more than the functional activity of ‘daily exercise’. It’s continuity, catharsis, beauty. It is healing and brings quiet joy.
But as the tight spring of anxiety uncoils, feelings of guilt and uselessness are never far away. On every visit to the park, blue flashing lights speed past. While we are out savouring the spring sunshine, people are suffering. NHS medics are battling in the most testing circumstances to keep people alive. There are no words to describe the crushing sense of gratitude to those on the frontline – doctors, nurses, care-workers, porters, pharmacists, supermarket cashiers, teachers, all the key workers – risking their own health, even their lives, while we are called, rightly, to stay at home.
For us, home is a sanctuary, where we laugh, cry, squabble, shout, make up, hug and, no matter what, make a big mess. For too many women, home is prison – a place of cruelty and danger. For too many, the lockdown isn’t merely trying, it’s devastating. While I get exasperated at the endless cycle of meal and snack preparation, there are families close by that don’t have enough to eat as food poverty intensifies in the UK. I think often of a dear friend, a refugee who has been torn apart from his family by the brutal and on-going war in Syria, and now, living alone in London, is unable to see his friends. He is now preparing to volunteer to help others in greater need.
And if rich countries are struggling to cope, imagine the situation elsewhere. As a former aid-worker, I know that in too many places, things that we take for granted – clean water to wash our hands, shelter and the ability to maintain social distance – are luxuries. This crisis could spread and deepen hardship for millions of people around the world.
With the 50-year anniversary of Earth Day on 22 April, I’ve been wondering more than ever what will be left for future generations. Local campaigners are fighting to save Warren Farm, the threatened woodland beyond our park. Our children are inheriting a planet that is polluted, degraded and over-heated. We are breaking the most sacred bond we have towards the next generation: protecting their home and passing it on in a liveable condition.
And just like this pandemic, the climate emergency exacerbates inequality. We are all affected by the coronavirus. We are all experiencing climate breakdown. But some of us bear the brunt much more than others.
Climate breakdown is onion-like in its layers of complexity but at its centre is injustice. The countries that have done the least to overheat our planet are most affected by its consequences. Just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70 per cent of global carbon emissions, yet the same companies spend millions on slick advertising campaigns to deflect their culpability. It is no accident that people of colour and minorities seem to be disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus and have long been on the forefront of the climate emergency – it is the product of ingrained inequality and racism.
We cannot go back to business as usual. Over the last weeks, I’ve been talking to parents in the Our Kids’ Climate and Parents For Future global networks, who are more determined than ever to build a safer future. As a colleague in India said, ‘the dramatic, seemingly impossible reduction in deadly air pollution in Delhi is making us think long and hard about what more we can do to hold the government accountable’.
This isn’t about celebrating temporary drops in carbon emissions. It’s about glimpsing alternative realities. The pandemic is a wake-up call that we live in a physical world where catastrophe can happen. It is a reminder of our interconnectedness. It shows that our current trajectory is not inevitable.
But we need to make the case for a radical change of course. Governments are planning post-pandemic recovery deals. Powerful polluting industries are lobbying for large bail outs and deregulation. Set against this is the realisation that there is a different way: we can create new, green jobs, harness technology, build food supply chains that are resilient, unleash the creativity of community, and re-imagine business.
During these exceptional times, I’ve never felt more connected to my fellow humans, more appreciative of the natural world and more determined to fight for my kids, and all kids. It feels like something is shifting and a window for change is opening. Let us not squander the moment. This Earth Day, in lockdown, we will be more united than ever in our determination to protect our shared home. In a display of collective action, families around the world will showcase earth artwork on windows, balconies and doors – join us.
Maya Mailer is the campaign lead with Our Kids’ Climate a lead organizer with Mothers Rise Up, a trustee with Asylum Matters and a mother of three, ages 8, 6 & 2.
Connect with Maya on twitter @ mayamailer
*This post is published with permission from the author, Maya Mailer. It was first published on the Parents for Future UK website, April 21, 2020
Child in nature with mask: Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash
Onion: Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash