AB 345 did not Fail: Politicians failed. But Pediatricians are QUICK LEARNERS and we RISE UP.
August 8, 2020
As a former valedictorian of a large public school that made it to Crimson University, and then made it through the gauntlet of the morass of premedical students to Crimson Medical School, then residency at Mans Greatest Hospital, and even up the HMO ladder as Assistant Boss – Dr. Plastic Picker is competitive. And when State Senator Ben Huesos said in response to the community effort to lobby regarding AB 345, gas and oil set backs to protect schools and day cares and hospitals from air pollution, “This, ladies and gentlemen, is nothing more than a publicity stunt at a time when we cannot afford publicity stunts,” Hueso said. He did not make a friend of Dr. Plastic Picker.
I will continue to play the demure non-partisan pediatrician who ocean plastic picks along the beach (because that is all true). I refrained from saying mean things about him. But I looked up his CV and his accomplishments, and I said “meh.” What made me mad about his response, was that he was obviously speaking to some kind of other audience. Why make fun of people? Why paint everyone who called in and took their time to lobby as part of their civic duty “publicity stunts.” As a pediatrician and as a parent, I teach my children there is never a reason to be unkind. And that comment was just mean. But I live in a world where I see trash carelessly thrown all over the place, and can learn to work with anyone. Being Assistant Boss in a department of over 100 pediatricians with various interesting personalities has taught me a lot. Indeed Ben Huesos, in some ways I probably have better political skills than you. Try surviving as Assistant Boss of Pediatricians in my work place!!!
I did make in onto the radio news, and a story onto the KPBS website. Here is the link https://www.kpbs.org/news/2020/aug/05/fossil-fuel-setbacks-rejected-california-senate-co/. It was the first time I have been quoted in a major city news outlet and will air on TV tonight. The fleeting fame is small consolation.
But remember Dr. Plastic Picker is a trash-artist. I salvage seemingly throw away items about to go into the ocean, over 800 thus far, and bring them back into our human consumption cycle. I also take plastic waste and upcycle them into art, bird houses, and even coasters! From this experience I have upcycled this experience into knowledge. Because the secret about Pediatricians is that we may seem non-threatening as we hand out stickers, but we were all top of our classes and chose to go into the lowest paying medical specialty because we care about kids. And we are quick learners. Yesterday, politicians failed not pediatricians.
This is the learnings I gained from the effort to get AB 345 through the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
- Showing Up Matters: The actual advocacy part was not that hard. It was more sorting through the various emails from the various environmental groups, and seeing what they needed us to do. Just showing up as a collective representation as pediatricians gives not only strength to the environmental message, but moral support to the other community members. One of the woman advocates was actually the grandmother of one of my patients, and that was a really cool and organic coming together of like-minded community members!
- Titles Matter: I spoke as a private citizen on behalf of a group of friends who are private citizens. We are all pediatricians. But I still have an identity as Assisant Boss and Co-Chair of the AAP CA3 Climate Change and Health Committee, and that gives any efforts I make an addded oomph.
- I look Good On Camera and Sound Good on Radio: I didn’t make the evening news KPBS, just the radio show and then the on-line edition. But after watching 350.org and Mothers Out Front’s recording of our Press Release and then listening to my interview with Erik Anderson, I looked and sounded pretty good! Anyone can improve, but my purpose was to sound like my authentic self which is a well modulated but sincere pediatrician-next-door who cares about the community. There are enough fire-brands out there. I wanted and am a different kind of environmental activist. That persona works and is acutally me. This gives me confidence to continue to encourage my fellow pediatricians to do the same, and for me to be out front advocating.
- I’m Connected with the Environmental Groups in San Diego and the State Now: This happened quickly. But I now have good authenic working relationships with Mothers Out Front and 350.org. I was already a member of ClimateHealth Now, but now that I’ve participated in a campaign, I realize that work is easy to integrate with what I have been doing. I now also know how to use SLACK, which is the way we commnunicate. I finished my first joint project as part of the Public Health Advisory Committee of Climate Actions Campaign with Bruce Bekkar, and he was right – in the end being out there was kind of fun!
- My Network Matters: Each of us is a center of our own network. And I’ve always known that I am anchored very firmly in our community. I have my work network, my family network, my high school alumni network, my residency network, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. I used this “failure” and told the story of something important that we tried, we “failed,” but we learned and move forward. Already two physicians on the Physicians for a Sustainable Future Facebook group have now signed on to Climate Health NOW due to my post. They were ready and we acviated them.
And that is the biggest reason to hope. Because all physicians are pretty smart. We are quick learners. We only get involved when we need to, and right now the kids and the earth need us. If I accept that I’m pretty good but not that special, I realize that what I am able to do and learn so easily – can be replicated hundreds and thousands of times by other physicians.
I had posted over social media that I was sad yesterday, but this morning is a new day. The birds are chirping and flitting back and forth from my Upcycled Presidential Bird House. I took a walk with my daughter last night and noticed after yesterday’s “failure” how grand and broad the foliage is on an adjacent street. Trees, backyard song birds, coalition of concerned citizens from disparate corners of our community that came together to lobby for AB345. This certainly was not a “publicity stunt.” This was an ecosystem rising up. My quote on KPBS was actually spontaneous and I in my heart know that “When you actually know the webs of connection to families and people, we’re all interconnected.” Even with politicians.