Happy Mother’s Day, Ivanka. This year there’s a present you can give yourself and all mothers.

Dear Ivanka,

Today, we stand at the height of a critical moment in history that will affect the kind of planet we will leave for our children. And you, as a mother and as a daughter, can make a huge difference.

As a trusted advisor to your father, you are in a position of influence in today’s White House. As an activist committed to fighting against climate change, I’m looking at you to represent us mothers in those crucial decision-making meetings.

While there are many differences between you and me, we have one driving force in common — motherhood.

My kids are your average four and seven year olds. They have an absurd amount of energy, prefer to build forts out of couches rather than sit on them, tend to dig a lot of holes in the ground and climb any tree they can find (to the detriment of the trees, I’m afraid.) But putting their unintentional battering of innocent cherry trees aside, they seem to have this innate understanding of the need to care for the Earth. To pick up an earthworm and place it out of harm’s way, to recycle, to pick up trash as they walk alongside of a creek or a river — they know its value.

As a Jewish mother like you, I’d like to think that perhaps the core Jewish value of “Tikkun Olum” a drive to repair the world and to care for those less fortunate than yourself underlies this behavior. I can only hope that as their education continues, they will learn how important it is to till and tend the Earth with purpose and with respect.

This Mother’s day, while I have a lot of hope in my children’s ability to grow up with the moral call to make the world a better place, I worry for the world that they will grow up in.

Never before have the impacts of a changing climate felt so acute. Last year was the hottest on record. Erratic weather patterns like droughts, floods and hurricanes are becoming more frequent and disastrous, with climate change fueling their intensity around the world and even in our own backyards. From Baton Rouge, LA to Ellicott City, MD and California, we’ve seen historical floods, droughts and wildfires, hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.

Right now across the world, nearly 11 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia — many who are children — are dangerously hungry and in need of humanitarian assistance, with climate change making things much worse. That means many mothers who are desperate to provide for their kids, are often skipping meals so their children can eat.

Zeneba Louki (67) left, with Etta Brahim (36) outside her home with her children (L-R), Saleh Mahamad (7), Moussa Mahamed (5), Mohamed Ali (2) and Fatima Moussa (2). Her elder sister Ashta hamid is in red. A week’s worth of food for the whole family in the white bag. Credit: Andy Hall/Oxfam

This is one of many reasons why the Paris climate Agreement offers hope for the future of today’s children and generations to come. Nearly every country on earth, hundreds of businesses and American citizens all agree that these effects are real and we need to take action now.

Two hundred countries signed the Paris Agreement, each one agreeing together to do its part to cut greenhouse gas emissions. American businesses showed they understand the urgency and need to invest in a low carbon, clean energy future, with more than a thousand companies signing the “Business Back a Low-Carbon USA” letter, which supports the US participation in the Paris Agreement. The American peopled showed they want our government to take climate action, with hundreds of thousands of citizens, including many mothers, taking to the streets to participate in the recent People’s Climate March in Washington.

Climate solutions in action — in this case droughtresistant seeds in Thyolo, Malawi. “We work together as a family, especially at harvest time,” says Nora Gavinara (right, with child). Credit: Oxfam / Abbie Trayler-Smith

In today’s interconnected world, no nation can hide from or ignore massive global challenges like climate change. If we are to advance solutions to crucial issues and build a healthy, prosperous planet for our children and our children’s children, the US must continue its role as a global climate leader. Turning our back from the Paris Agreement achieves nothing but isolation from the world’s negotiating table. But it does have crucial life and death repercussions.

Caroline Malema and her children with the last remaining banana tree, after the rest were swept away by a flood last year. Credit: Nicole Johnston/Oxfam

Taking climate action is so much more than just protecting the environment and warming temperatures. It’s also about keeping our families healthy and safe. No one race, religion or socioeconomic class will be able to avoid the impacts of climate change — it touches the lives of everyone and we are all in this fight together.

Sri Lanka floods Credit: Michael Mathiyalakan/Oxfam

Perhaps it is unfair to drop this all on your shoulders, but as a mother who wants nothing but the best for your children, surely you understand. Right now, you are in a position to make sure the right decision is made for humanity. You can be the voice of reason and urge your father to keep the US in the Paris Agreement, and committed to our promises to reduce carbon emissions. We still have a chance to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and leave a better planet for our kids and grandkids.


Heather Coleman

Heather Coleman is the Climate Change and Energy Director for the international humanitarian organization, Oxfam America. Heather has been working on securing ambitious and equitable climate policy in the US and internationally for nearly 15 years. Twitter: @heatherclimate

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