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Children at the "Play-in for Climate Action"

They may be small, but they're mighty. Children rallied on Capitol Hill to fight climate change.

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Heat advisories issued throughout Washington, D.C. didn't prevent hundreds of families and environmentalists from gathering on Thursday to highlight challenges created by climate change.

Representing nearly 40 states, the crowd held a "Play-In" rally and press conference to pressure policymakers into addressing the Trump administration's rollback of environmental protections.

"Climate change is something I'm terrified of because, now that I'm a mother, I've got two pre-school aged kids and I know that their going to see the negative effects of this in their lifetime," said Stephanie Diehl.

"And instead of doing things to step up and correct the problem, this administration is taking us in the opposite direction with withdrawing us from [the Paris Climate Agreement]."

Though Diehl participated in six demonstrations so far, she said she only brought her two children, Paul and Claire, to one of them. But four-year-old Paul and two-year-old Claire appeared more interested in their snacks than in the chanting and presenters.

The "Play-in Climate Action" was noticeably different, Diehl noted.

"It was really exciting to me that there was an event here and that they could come and play and, at the same time, learn a bit of a civics lesson," she said. "This is how we peacefully demonstrate what's important to us."

Paul and Claire Diehl enjoy the activities at the "Play-in for Climate Action"

Paul and Claire Diehl enjoy the activities at the "Play-in for Climate Action"

Bystanders were struck by the sea of red shirts in Upper Senate Park, while the contagious and energetic giggles of children couldn't be drowned out by the on-stage musical performances.

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From the onset, the "family friendly" rally may have appeared to be all fun and games, but their message couldn't boast more gravitas: protect the earth to protect children's health.

"Climate change exacerbates poor air quality which can contribute to exacerbation to chronic lung conditions and also contributes to things like prematurity and low-birth weight," said Dr. Aparna Boyle, a pediatrician from Ohio.

Climate change, she added, can also lead to a change in patterns of infectious diseases.

"Climate change can result in the northward expansion vector-borne illnesses so bugs that transmit infections that can actually survive in more northern climates," Boyle continued.

Clear Air Moms Vote

Families gathered near the Capitol to fight climate change.

One 19-year-old participant who traveled all the way from Central Valley, CA has already begun to notice how climate change creates public health issues in communities like hers.

"We get a lot of pesticide drifting, so it affects the air we breathe in," said Leticia Lopez.

Boyle also underscored the importance of quality air, especially for those with childhood asthma.

"With rising surface temperature, surface air zone concentrations go up...it can cause and exacerbate chronic lung conditions," she said.

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"With rising CO2 concentrations, the length and intensity of the air allergen season is increasing so that's a sort of double whammy for kids with asthma because those air allergens and surface ozones can trigger their asthma."

Despite the environmental issues that future generations will encounter, Boyle noted the particular resilience of young people to challenge the status quo.

"I think as we've seen today, young people can be among the most eloquent spokespeople for their own interests, for their own rights, for their own futures."

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