Money & Careers

Dominique Browning: ‘Making a Difference in the Air We Breathe’

-2MCAF meeting with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (Dominique next to GM) in Washington, DC

“Climate change, rising sea levels, heat waves, and extreme weather all have enormous impact on children’s health and on their mother’s health,” Browning says. Through its website and its work on the ground, MCAF makes concrete both the symptoms and causes of climate change and their impact on families—for example, the resulting asthma epidemic is not only increasing children’s visits to the doctor but also draining household budgets.

While running a magazine and leading a movement both demand a desire to communicate, touch people’s lives, and feel a passion for something that you want to share, immersing oneself in a topic like climate change requires something extra.

“Thinking about air pollution and climate change has really forced me to find a deeper center so that it doesn’t knock me out of my orbit,” Browning notes. “This is very upsetting stuff, very alarming. I have to draw on deeper reserves for equanimity, hope, and serenity. It’s amazing practice for being resilient.”

Her enthusiasm not only remains un-dampened, it infects everyone she works with. “She is inspirationally passionate,” says Managing Editor Ronnie Citron-Fink, who has worked side-by-side with Browning since MCAF was launched. “Everything she does comes from the heart, and it’s inspiring to work with her because she works at such a high level of intellect.”

In addition, Citron-Fink notes, Browning makes a point of being inclusive, expecting her staff to reach out to those beyond their own political circles. “She’s gotten the team to talk to people with different ideologies. We’re all under the same umbrellas as conservationists.”

Indeed, keeping an open tent and welcoming political and religious conservatives into the Moms movement was a core value right from the beginning. “These are issues that need to transcend party and petty politics,” Browning says.

Browning attributes that perspective to her upbringing. With a Jewish mother raised in Casablanca and a father from Kentucky who comes from an evangelical background, she was accustomed to hearing many different voices. “My aunt Kathleen is a super-intelligent, born-again Christian, my father a card-carrying NRA Southern boy who is enormously kind and caring. I never threw away or discounted those views. I’ve been listening to them for my whole life,” she says.

Browning recommends that we get our own kids to listen as well. “Talk to your kids about how important clean air is, why they should turn off their computers, turn off their lights. Avoiding waste is a value that kids can embrace.”

And while what we do at home is important, “it’s not what is going to solve this problem,” says Browning. “What will work is old-fashioned citizenship, telling others we have to cut carbon emissions and methane emissions. The U.S. is still the biggest emitter of carbon per capita. Politicians will do this only if we, the constituents, make them do it. And, she reminds us, “Our kids are going to be asking, ‘Hey, what are you doing about climate change?’”

To that end, and in honor of Clean Air Month, Browning asks us to sign a petition urging our representatives in Congress to support limiting carbon pollution from power plants, pollution that is currently unregulated.

“Climate change is an overwhelming, unhappy subject, but it’s really important to understand that we can beat this, there are answers,” she says.

In her book Around the House and in the Garden Browning describes her four-year-old self, helping her father build several paths through their back yard to a nearby stream. Her words, written more than a dozen years ago, are prescient.

“When we were digging out those paths,” she writes, “we were so close, so connected in the work we had undertaken together, so serious in our play that I was nurtured for a long time by the reverberations of that activity. Those paths took me somewhere far beyond that river.”

Indeed they did.

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