Rescuing the Planet: From the Personal to the Political

By Marietta Benevento

Begin at home, but know we must go further: You and I can make environmentally conscious choices – to recycle, eat less (or no) meat, use energy-saving appliances, take transit or pedal a bike, promote sustainability in our workplaces. But if we then proceed complacently, thinking I’ve done my part, there’s a problem. Source after source, experts warn that our singular habits and consumption patterns are a start, but aren’t sufficient to solve global warming.

Seek the common view in our communities: According to a recent NPR/Ipsos poll, more than 80% of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change in schools. And that’s across political divides, with two-thirds of Republicans and 9 in 10 Democrats in agreement.  Also, there is growing consensus among younger people, across party lines. A recent Pew study found that 57% of Republican and Republican-leaning Millennials believe there is “solid evidence” of climate change. While more Millennial Democrats (94%) believe this, it’s notable that majorities on both sides are in accord. Finally, though much has been written about the age-gap in attitudes toward climate change, wherein older adults call the demands of young climate activists unreasonable or naïve, there are grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and guardians around the globe stepping up to support youthful climate efforts under the auspices of organizations like parentsforfuture.org.

Given that more of us appear to agree on the urgency of climate change than not, we might tune out the voices of divisiveness and think in terms of a united response. Most Americans believe that environmental protection is an essential function of government, and tend to support rules that safeguard human health. The challenge is not to shout down nay-sayers, but to build consensus and increase and exercise collective will.

From local districts to Washington DC, push the popular vote: Trump has packed advisory boards with climate deniers who won’t institute or uphold programs to reduce emissions in transportation, building, oil and gas, or agriculture; nor take action toward creating a carbon-reduced economy. And the EPA is presently trying to deregulate under cover of the COVID-19 emergency. From now until November, we must do all we can to remove this administration from office.

Closer to home, our state and local government holds wide-ranging power to enact and enforce environmental policies affecting everything from our energy utilities to car emissions to when people can water their lawns. Our down-ballot choices matter greatly.

Now’s the time to support candidates at every level who have proven environmental records or who have taken strong pro-environmental stances. Now’s the time to commit to vote for the planet. And now’s the time to help our like-minded neighbors register, apply for absentee ballots or (if/when conditions allow) get to the polls.