By Antonieta Cadiz
HOUSTON — Earlier this month, after a couple of days of rain, my eight-year-old son confessed to me that he was scared. He told me that he was afraid the house would flood again.
“This is not like Harvey,” I replied. “We’ll be fine.”
But seconds after saying it, I couldn’t help but feel that it was more hope than reality. The experience of living through a devastating extreme weather event like Hurricane Harvey stayed with my family and has changed the way I see the future of my children.
Before Harvey, climate change was an abstract concept in my life and it was only after that historic flood in 2017, after seeing my children in a rescue boat in the middle of stinking brown water, that I understood that it was all part of the same problem. Extreme storms fueled by climate change.
That completely changed my perspective of this debate, so human, but at the same time so political. I am not alone in my concern as a mother. Like me, there are millions of women in the United States whose lives have been impacted by air and water pollution, as well as extreme weather.
Studies show that Latino children face disproportionate exposure to air pollutants, pesticides, and toxic industrial chemicals, all of which apply to higher rates of asthma and behavioral and developmental disorders.
Even more, a study of over 32 million births in the United States found that exposure to high temperatures or air pollution during pregnancy increases the likelihood of women having life-threatening issues for them and their children, like “premature children, underweight or stillborn.” The risk of premature birth increased from 8.6% to 21% due to high-temperature exposure, according to four separate studies.
Already, 55% of Latinos in the United States live in three states that are experiencing serious negative effects linked to climate change: California, Florida, and Texas, and over 65% of Latinos have personally experienced extreme weather patterns such as deadly heat waves, frequent and intense storms and flooding within past years.
All big numbers that speak of an urgent reality, the need to act now.
I constantly think about what is my contribution. What can I do to keep my children safe and healthy? What can I do to protect them? I can educate them to be responsible for the environment, but although it is important, that will not stop the accumulation of greenhouse gases we need to mitigate climate change. That is why elections do count and the political debate in Washington can make a difference.
Since his presidency began, Joe Biden has taken decisive action to reverse the catastrophic damage to climate left by the Trump administration. Now with his American Jobs Plan, Biden is proposing transformative investments in clean energy and infrastructure, which will usher in a green economy and in turn create millions of good-paying jobs. Leadership of this level is necessary to generate the changes we need to protect our families, our children, to really put a stop to global warming and the effects of climate change.
I consider myself tremendously lucky to have survived Harvey, to have my family with me, and I am fully aware that my story could be tragically different. I know that for thousands of mothers it has been like that, and my heart clenches thinking of them. So now it’s the time to speak on behalf of our kids’ future. There is no better advocate for our children than us and the country needs to hear us loud and clear. The time to act is now.
Antonieta Cadiz is a spokesperson for Climate Power. Twitter: @AntonietaCadiz.