These ‘Science Moms’ Are Worried About Their Kids’ Future — And They Want To Help Other Parents Take Climate Change Action

February 13, 2021
Melissa Burt, a research scientist at Colorado State University, camping with her daughter Mia. Melissa Burt, a research scientist at Colorado State University, camping with her daughter Mia. (Courtesy of Melissa Burt)
Melissa Burt, a research scientist at Colorado State University, camping with her daughter Mia.

If you're a new mom or dad, it's often helpful to get advice from other parents. They're the experts on the best new car seat and how to finally get your toddler potty trained.

There's now a group of moms who want to be that expert resource on climate change.

In its inaugural public push, the Science Moms campaign is spending $10 million to get the word out on the group, which wants to "demystify climate change, talk honestly about how it will affect our children and give moms the facts they need to take action," as it reads on the website's homepage.

Two of the Science Moms are Melissa Burt and Emily Fischer, who both research aspects of climate change at Colorado State University in the atmospheric science department.

"The target is moms, mainly because moms are a group that are really concerned about climate change, and they're very likely to do something about it," Fischer said. "And we're also moms, so this is a natural group for us to connect to and talk to."

Fischer compared the effort to that of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who "were really able to change the culture around drunk driving. Moms really are the bedrocks of communities. They talk to each other, and when they decide to get something done, it just gets done."

Fischer and Burt are friends. They exchange hand-me-downs, and find comfort in having each other as a resource for their work, parenting and this new Science Moms group.

(Courtesy of Emily Fischer)
Emily Fischer, an associate professor at Colorado State University, skiing with her daughter.

"It is hard to talk about science and your personal life at the same time," Fischer said.

Burt agrees.

"But I think that's the beauty of this project, that we really want people to know and to connect with their hearts and to connect with us as individuals," Burt said. "This is something that should matter to all of us, right? The number one job for you as a mom is to protect your kid, and you want the life of your kid to be better than your own life."

Burt is also the assistant dean for diversity and inclusion for the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering at CSU. She notes that climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color.

"For me, it's really important for moms of color and communities of color see that they have a role and responsibility to have an impact, and to do something about climate change," Burt said. "So I can be a visible person that someone says, 'Wow, she looks like me and she's doing something about it.'"

Burt said this campaign wants to "have a conversation about climate change in a very different method than has been done before."

It's about getting personal.

Fischer and her family were backpacking this summer when the Cameron Peak Fire started near their location. Fischer, her husband and their two daughters had to rush miles back to their car. The fire grew to be the largest on record for Colorado.

Fischer studies wildfires and air quality, and she said Colorado's wildfire activity over the last few years have rattled her to her core. Friends, family and the media reached out asking what she does with her kids when it's smoky outside.

"It forced a lot of conversations around smoke and health impacts and all the decision-making that needs to come into play as a parent to protect your kids when the air is unhealthy," Fischer said.

Fischer said if she didn't share the way she felt about climate change, it would inauthentic. She recounted the time when her older daughter first learned about the issue.

"She came home, and she knows I'm a scientist. And she said, 'Is this real?' And I said, 'Yes.' And she started crying. And I said to her, 'That's the right reaction,'" Fischer said. "I also realized in that moment that that really was a reasonable reaction for adults and for children."

"And then I assured her I was going to work on it," Fischer said. "And I think that for kids, that's one of the most reassuring things you can say is that, 'Your mom is working on it.' "