Happy Mother’s Day, Eartherlings. I’m no mom yet, but you know what? Moms are amazing—especially those raising the kids who will turn this world around and stop our governments from burning fossil fuels past the point of no return.
And some young people are really dedicated. From all around the world—in Colombia, India, and the U.S.—youth have been suing their state and federal governments to attempt to force them to tackle climate change. All they want is a chance at a future where they can live healthily and happily. In the U.S., a group of relentless kids has even secured a trial date for their landmark federal case.
What about the moms behind the scenes, though? “They must be equally as badass,” I thought recently. Confirmed: They are.
Earther spoke with some moms behind the 21 youth plaintiffs who have launched a lawsuit against the U.S. government in 2015. Here are just a few of the women raising the climate warriors taking our government to court.
Melanie Oommen, mother to Kiran Oommen, 21
A pastor, Melanie Oommen has woven kindness and healing into her and her family’s everyday life. The reason she’s concerned about climate change? Literally, humanity is at stake.
It’s no surprise that concern has rubbed off on her son Kiran, helping energize him into taking action. Oommen didn’t push him into the world of activism, though. Others involved in the federal climate case invited him to join in 2015, and with his values, it was a bit of a no-brainer, Oommen said.
“As a young person, he became increasingly concerned about the world,” Oommen went on. “He grew up in a community and family where concern for the world was just a part of everything we do.”
This mom of three has been sure to instill this concern for the planet and its people in all three of her children, not just Kiran. This Mother’s Day, she’d like nothing more than for the U.S. to come up with a strategic, science-based plan to reduce emissions, but in the meantime, she’d settle for more time with her kids.
“That’s always what I love best,” she said.
Sharon Baring, mother to Nathan Baring, 18
Baring spends a lot of her time in schools. So does her husband. She’s an elementary school nurse, and he’s a teacher. “I try every day to help people connect with their authentic selves, with those around them and with where they live because that sense of being connected is where health lies,” she wrote in an email to Earther.
Health, the environment, and how they’ll worsen in the face of climate change, are prominent topics of discussion in the Barings’ household, and Nathan appears to get it. Baring and her husband weren’t too excited at first when Nathan was asked to join the climate case because, well, suing the government isn’t something to do lightly. Nathan was determined, though. As a kid, he couldn’t vote, and he was fed up with people dismissing him and telling him, “someone else will handle it.”
So his parents agreed. “We knew he needed to do this,” Baring said, “and we needed to support him, come what may.”
That’s the kind of mom she is. All Baring asks in return for her unconditional support this Mother’s Day? A morning cup of coffee and a game of frisbee.
Helaina Piper, mother to Aji Piper, 17
Piper is a single mom, so she knows the struggle. She juggled up to five jobs sometimes to make ends meet, from nannying to working at an art studio. And yet, she still finds time to plug into her community by serving on nonprofit boards and volunteering. That dedication and commitment to community is what got Aji so revved up about the environment.
Well, that and music. He taught himself to play the ukulele at 12 and would write songs with his younger brother. They’d perform that at city halls and public hearings. It served as a launching point for community engagement, and people started seeking Aji out to speak at events. Once he started learning about climate change, there was no going back. Aji was in the fight for the long run.
His activism and participation in a high-profile lawsuit hasn’t been an easy journey for his mom. After all, he’s a young black teen who travels around the country in a time where simply being black can result in police confrontations. But Piper doesn’t let her worries stop Aji. He deserves to be empowered, she said. And she’s proud.
She’s not too proud, however, of his dish-washing skills. With Piper’s busy work schedule, she just wishes her boys would clean up every now and then. No time like Mother’s Day to get started on that.
Holly McRae, mother to Avery McRae, 12
McRae has worn many hats. She was a park ranger, environmental educator, and now she works for a land trust. Her passion for the environment helped guide how she raised Avery.
And while Avery is just 12, her mom’s passion has clearly rubbed off on her. At five, she learned snow leopards were endangered, and McRae helped her plan a snow leopard-themed party. At the party McRae told them all Avery’s friends about the dangers the animal was facing. They gathered donations and sent them to a foundation doing work to save the snow leopard.
This save-the-world party thing? It became a regular occurrence and demand from Avery. “It was so much fun that the next year, she was like what are we doing this year,” McRae told Earther.
If that’s not a parenting goal, then I don’t know what is.
Having a child so young in the national spotlight can be exhausting for McRae, but she strives to help her daughter find a balance between being a kid and saving the world. She also wants to help keep her daughter’s optimistic spark alive as she grows older.
“I know Avery doesn’t even understand all the impacts [of climate change],” McRae said. “She’s too young to understand them. I think the hardest thing going forward is, as she begins to grapple these things at a deeper level, being there for her and supporting her. ”
Sounds to me like McRae’s got nothing to worry about. If she can plan cool-ass endangered animal parties, she’ll know exactly what to do the next time her daughter needs some guidance.