Hazel Chandler was at home taking care of her son when she began flipping through a document that detailed how burning fossil fuels would soon jeopardize the planet.
She can’t quite remember who gave her the report — this was in 1969 — but the moment stands out to her vividly: After reading a list of extreme climate events that would materialize in the coming decades, she looked down at the baby she was nursing, filled with dread.
“‘Oh my God, I’ve got to do something,’” she remembered thinking.
It was one of several such moments throughout Chandler’s life that propelled her into activist spaces — against the Vietnam War, for civil rights and women’s rights, and in support of other environmental causes.
She participated in letter-writing campaigns and helped gather others to write to legislators about vital pieces of environmental legislation including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, passed in 1970 and 1972, respectively. At the child care center she worked at, she helped plan celebrations around the first Earth Day in 1970.
Now at 78, after working in child care and health care for most of her life, she’s more engaged than ever. In 2015, she began volunteering with Elder Climate Action, which focuses on activating older people to fight for the environment. She then took a job as a consultant for the Union for Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy organization.
More recently, her activism has revolved around her role as the Arizona field coordinator of Moms Clean Air Force, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group. Chandler helps rally volunteers to take action on climate and environmental justice issues, recruiting residents to testify and meet with lawmakers.