October 30, 2019

Mothers Out Front & Kelsey Wirth Win McNulty Prize for Mobilizing Bold Action on Climate

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Watch the micro-documentary featuring Mothers Out Front

If anything can move politicians to act, it's an organized and diverse movement of mothers fighting for their children’s futures.

Madeleine Albright

BREAKING NEWS—The McNulty Foundation and the Aspen Institute today announced Kelsey Wirth and Mothers Out Front as the recipient of the 12th annual John P. McNulty Prize, which recognizes individuals who are creating sustainable models for social change. Mothers Out Front is mobilizing more than 32,000 women and their children to demand those in power at all levels of US government take bold action that will accelerate the nation’s transition away from fossil fuels.

Co-founded in 2013 by Wirth and Vanessa Rule, Mothers Out Front uses a proven model of grassroots organizing, and has trained and empowered mothers and others who are influencing decision-makers and showing up in force. Much of their work is focused on building power in frontline communities — low-income communities and communities of color that have been hit hardest by the health and environmental costs of the climate crisis.

“Climate change affects everyone, but it harms the vulnerable and marginalized most of all,” said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, chair of the McNulty Prize Jury. “We need courage and leadership on this issue now more than ever. If anything can move politicians to act, it's an organized and diverse movement of mothers fighting for their children’s futures."

It was that same paradigm shift that propelled Kelsey Wirth to found her organization. “If a car was driving down the street and my daughter ran in front of it, I would throw myself between her and the car. That’s how I came to understand climate change, not as a citizen, but as a mother.”

Unable to sit idly by while her daughters stood to inherit an increasingly poisoned planet, Wirth organized meetings in her home with other moms in her Massachusetts neighborhood. What started there has grown into a 32,000-strong force, with more than 45 mother-led teams driving change in 10 states, with more states on the horizon.

“To be a mother is to think about the future. Mothers Out Front taps into the unique voice and moral authority of moms, parents and all those who are hard-wired to protect their children, and engages them in direct actions in their communities. They are winning results across the country.

Anne Welsh McNulty

Think Globally, Fight Locally, Win Everywhere

The organization’s teams of moms have hit the pavement and achieved real wins. In Massachusetts, groups of mothers physically tagged and cataloged hundreds of methane leaks in gas pipelines – leaks that account for an estimated ten percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Their campaign was instrumental in Massachusetts’ committing to reduce its statewide carbon emissions by five percent.

Other wins have resulted in pipeline regulations to address methane leaks, the halting of new fossil fuel infrastructure in frontline communities in New York and Virginia, and increasing renewable energy use, including passing the nation’s largest community clean energy program in California, and replacing diesel school buses with new fleets of electric buses.

The movement is rapidly growing across the United States. “It's about creating a space and a movement for everyone who is concerned for our children's wellbeing, everyone who wants to ensure that children born into the world today can grow up in the kind of world that we want for them,” says Kelsey Wirth. Watch the micro-documentary featuring Mothers Out Front.

The John P. McNulty Prize was founded by Anne Welsh McNulty in memory of her late husband, to recognize the boldness and impact of individuals using their expertise and entrepreneurial talents to address the world’s toughest challenges. A distinguished jury, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Ugandan statesman Olara Otunnu, international development expert Brizio Biondi-Morra and Ford Foundation president Darren Walker selected the 2019 winner. Previous juries have included Mary Robinson, Bill Gates, Sr. and Sir Richard Branson, among others.

The 2019 Laureates include Srikumar Misra for Milk Mantra in India, Maria Pacheco and Alexandra Kissling for Vital Voices Central America in Central America, and Joshin Raghubar for the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative in South Africa. Each Laureate receives $25,000 and the Winner receives $100,000. The 2019 Winner and Laureates will be honored at the annual McNulty Prize celebration in New York on November 13.

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