Read Sarah’s story and learn how to be a climate voter yourself at enough2020.org.
Our everyday lives are in many ways different than one year ago, and never has the urgent need for political leadership been more apparent.
I was instilled with a strong sense of community and civic engagement from those who raised me. My mom was very active in the church and worked in the schools, my dad was a lifelong union worker, and my grandma even helped found a League of Women Voters chapter in Los Angeles County during the fight for the Voting Rights Act.
Civics was second nature to me, but it took years to understand how many communities have been blocked from engaging in systems not designed for them.
I directly saw the role of voting for environmental justice as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Ecuador, serving during the passage of the world’s first Rights of Nature in their 2008 constitutional vote. I witnessed thousands of remote farmers pour into the regional seat where they had universal suffrage. In my years there, I supported community members in elected and informal leadership to shape and strengthen their communities.
At the time, Ecuador was also in the midst of an international lawsuit against Chevron, while across the border in Peru, neighbors were protesting similar oil pollution in their communities. The Rights of Nature was a powerful way for local communities to take back their power and protect themselves from exploitation.
I saw this pattern play out when I returned to organize with my own communities in Minnesota to advance local solutions to shape the world we live in. I’ve worked both in and outside of government to elevate community voices, including nonpartisan election support for the last decade.
Our U.S. history, rooted in exploitation, is fraught with discriminatory barriers in contradiction to our proclaimed proud national freedoms, which are limited to too few of We the People.
At 244 years of independence, we have had 100 years of women’s suffrage, only 55 years of the Voting Rights Act, and continued voter suppression and legal discrimination that create barriers for many to their right to vote and democratic representation. This is especially true and by design is harmful to Indigenous nations and communities of color at the frontlines of climate injustice, and for young generations most impacted by the worsening climate crisis.
It is our responsibility to be active voters and engage our communities in reclaiming our power to shape our future locally and globally.
Elected officials don’t only influence climate justice in their own seat, they direct leadership across governing bodies at every level, appoint judges, and even community advisors that shape our infrastructure, from public safety and water quality to housing and schools.
One vote can truly make the difference in an election, especially at the local level — my friend won a suburban race on a coin toss!
Your vote is invaluable. Your vote is part of a collective effort, and you carry the voices and visions of those who cannot vote, whether for age, citizenship, over-policing, documentation, or any other barrier. Those of you who cannot vote: share what you hope for your community with each voter you reach.
So, what can we do?
First and foremost, share your story! Polling shows support for climate action across the nation, but most people never talk about it with each other. Your voice is the most powerful tool to motivate those around you to make climate justice a priority in 2020. Help generate support around the dinner table, at the bus stop, in your networks, or in your local news, listen to those around you and build connections around shared goals.
Learn your candidates’ priorities for climate action. More than 90,000 local units of government can have a dramatic impact on climate action. Candidates depend on voter support and respond to demands they hear from their communities, make sure they’re hearing from you.
Help combat lies by sharing reliable information. Many voting procedures are shifting to protect voters from COVID-19 this year, so share updates from your local election offices. Report misinformation which may constitute voter fraud, especially dangerous as a majority of people get their news on social media.
Make a plan to vote — do not take anything for granted. Make sure your registration is current, request an absentee ballot, and vote early. If you plan to vote in person, check your polling place location. Know your voter rights in your state. We are part of an exciting coalition of youth climate partners sharing easy tools to help you prepare to vote across the U.S. at enough2020.org. Check it out!
Bring others into action with you! Help your friends be voters. Ask them how they will vote, make sure you each have a plan, know your state deadlines and have what you need whether an ID in some states or postage or transportation to cast your ballot on time. Fun peer pressure can encourage everyone to participate safely together whether voting early by mail, at an early voting center, or at your polling place on Election Day.
Having fun yet? Keep going! There are many ways to engage voters beyond the ballot:
- Find a phone bank or write postcards to turn out voters, on your own or work or volunteer with a team through election day.
- Contact your candidates before and after election day to share your goals for climate action and pressure them to commit to act on climate.
- Help staff the polls! Many poll workers are unable to work this year due to health risks, and help is needed nationwide to keep polling places safe for those unable to vote from home.
- What a better time to try something new, even if it’s uncomfortable — reach out to ClimateGen for help getting started!
Election Day decides who we will work with to advance climate solutions, and it’s just the start. Stay involved after November 3 and hold elected officials accountable to all those they represent and to the health and sustainability of your community and future generations.
Our combined crises of a global pandemic, racial injustice and state violence, our economic recession, and the climate crisis are all intertwined, and we must move solutions that address every intersection for our collective survival.
It is crucial, now more than ever, that the election results reflect the voice of the people, and we must all work hard to ensure that happens. The next few years hold real challenges — the outcome of the upcoming election will set the course for how these overlapping issues are addressed in our country at every level. There has never been a more important time in history to demand bold action for climate justice and to deeply transform our world. Step into your power by sharing your voice along with your vote as we build communities of climate leaders.