Science Moms On Climate Change — Now It’s Personal!
January 17th, 2021 by Steve Hanley
Science Moms is an amalgamation of 6 female climate scientists spearheaded by Katharine Hayhoe who have one thing in common. They are all mothers concerned about bequeathing a sustainable planet to their kids. Their objective is to educate other mothers and encourage them to work together to promote a progressive climate agenda locally, nationally, and internationally.
Working with Potential Energy, a nonprofit marketing firm, Science Moms is planning a $10 million outreach campaign to encourage more mothers to work for a sustainable planet. In Katharine Hayhoe’s words, their message to women is “Channel your fear into action. Talk to your friends and family. Advocate for change in your town, your church, your school, your state.” The group’s work is funded in part by a grant from MacKenzie Scott, the former spouse of Jeff Bezos, who has recently begun an extraordinary $5 billion philanthropy program.
Potential Energy’s motto is that existential problems call for extraordinary creativity. Its mission is to “bring together America’s leading creative, analytic and media agencies to shift the narrative on climate change. Together, we are using the power of marketing to develop new narratives, engage new audiences, and build demand for a better, cleaner, more prosperous world.”
Katharine Hayhoe And Friends
CleanTechnica readers are familiar with the work of Katharine Hayhoe, who has created the widely acclaimed video entitled Global Wierding. But most of you will be less familiar with the 5 women who have joined her to form Science Moms. They are:
- Dr. Melissa Burt, a research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado University with a focus on arctic clouds, radiation, and sea ice, as well as the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering at Colorado State University.
- Dr. Emily Fischer, an Associate Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University (CSU). She is also an affiliate faculty member of the CSU School of Global Environmental Sustainability.
- Dr. Ruth DeFries, a professor of ecology and sustainable development at Columbia University in New York.
- Dr. Tracey Holloway, who serves as the Team Lead for the NASA Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team that focuses on air quality management and public health.
- Dr. Joellen Russell, chair of the Integrative Science and Professor at the University of Arizona in the Department of Geosciences. She currently serves as chair of the NOAA Science Advisory Board’s Climate Working Group.
The Science Moms website features an assortment of facts about global heating and resources to help people understand the issues in personal way. It includes links to books that teach kids about the Earth’s climate and has a form that makes it simple for people to contact their elected officials. In an interview with the Washington Post, Hayhoe says, “One of the most powerful ways for us to connect over climate change is … this fundamental value that we share. We all want to ensure a better and safer future for our child.”
The ad campaign will begin this month on television and online. Beginning next month, it will begin focusing on individual states like North Carolina, Arizona and Wisconsin. Organizers tell the Post this is the beginning of a multiyear effort. Below is one of the first 30 second ads, a spot in which Dr.Burt has a message for her 4 year old daughter, Mia.“You don’t have to be a climate scientist to want to protect the Earth,” she says. “And for Mia, I want you to know that I worked really hard to be a part of the change and to make it a better place for you.”
Mothers are the “sweet spot” for inspiring social change, said John Marshall, a veteran marketing executive and a founder of Potential Energy. They are also more likely than men to say they are concerned about climate change, he says. He points to several such groups that have had success in promoting changes in society, particularly Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Marshall’s goal is to increase awareness of the threat posed by global warming and inspire a willingness to take action. He would like to double the proportion of Americans who say they are “alarmed” about climate change — a number that hovers around 26 percent, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “That’s really low,” Marshall says. “If you were an alien and looked at the planet, you’d think, ‘How could only a quarter of people be concerned about this?’ ”
“A dollar spent on a concerned mom goes a lot further than a lot of other segments,” Marshall adds, but his research suggests that mothers are not more vocal about the warming threat because they’re not confident they understand the science and are unsure of what to do about it. Much of that reticence can be traced to the influence of a male dominated society, as explained in exquisite detail by Isabel Wilkerson in her powerfully written yet deeply disturbing new book entitled Caste: The Origins Of Our Discontents.
“Moms trust moms,” says Dr. Burt. She hopes that viewers will see her — a Black woman who studies the warming Arctic and presents at scientific conferences but who also cooks for her family and gardens with her daughter — and feel represented. “I want to connect with moms who look like me. Black moms and Brown moms, and moms who are in communities of color, because we are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. I just want other moms who look like me to know they have a role in combating this crisis,” she tells the Washington Post.
“What we want to do is empower other moms to become messengers in the most-trusted category, which is friends and family,” Katharine Hayhoe says. “I really believe that using our voices is the way we can make a difference.” It won’t be easy. Mansplaining is the predominate discourse model in America today (and in most of the world.) The comments to the Washington Post story make it obvious that this will be an uphill battle. Several of those comments suggest the problem of global heating is the fault of women who insist on having more and more children, ignoring completely the role that men play in creating tiny humans.
Harry Belafonte once told me after a presentation at the JFK Library in Boston that the best hope for the world lies in the empowerment of women. That was 25 years ago. There is little observable evidence that men are any more willing to cede political and social power to women in America today than they were then. Nor are they likely to do so in future.
Perhaps one of the ancillary benefits of the Climate Moms initiative will be to loosen some of the shackles that lead women to conclude their voices are not valued by society. If humans are to address the climate emergency successfully, it will take all of us working together. White males have made a hash of it. Perhaps it is time to give others a chance to show what they can do.
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