Since November 8, environmentalists around the country have been in a whirlwind trying to reorient the climate movement and develop a better understanding of what many are calling the “new normal.” Not only does the president-elect and his proposed cabinet lack respect for the science behind the fight, but we also have a Congress stacked with senators and representatives who are working deliberately against the movement.
We won’t lie to you, the next few years will be chaotic. However, this movement will be propelled forward as long as everyone keeps fighting and has a solid grasp of our new “civics.” In preparation for our National Day Against Denial Action on January 9, we’ve collected some key facts and ideas you should keep in mind for the next time you organize for (or against) a piece of legislation or particular politician:
We Start with the Cities
This movement has always been grassroots–meaning we never expected major change to start with the president or congress. We’ve always known that ordinary people are the ones who drive change. From the civil rights movement to women’s suffrage, many of our rights were won by people–people who weren’t afraid to make noise or get on the streets or in the news.
Similarly, we’re seeing cities, not countries, start to drive climate change dialogue and action. For instance, although the Cabinet is currently being stacked with climate change deniers like Exxon’s Rex Tillerson and Ohio Attorney General Scott Pruitt, cities around the country are pledging to go green. In fact, our own Mayor Jim Kenney is part of the United Nations-initiated Compact of Mayors, an international coalition of mayors dedicated to taking drastic actions on climate change. Cities are starting to be seen as national pilot programs, and by prioritizing effectively communicating with our mayors and city councils, we might be able to create multiple domino effects.
If I had a nickel for everyone who complained about confusing election coverage in the media, I’d be wealthy enough to buy a second home in another country.
Did you know that politicians’ voting records are publicly available? One of the best ways to uncover the truth about where politicians stand on the issues, without “spin,” is to read up on how your representatives voted on different bills and issues. Websites like Congress.org and Vote Smart allow citizens to make their election-day decisions based on unadulterated data.
Organizations like the League of Conservation Voters also publish “scorecards,” which allow you to quickly gauge a politician’s voting record on environmental issues, in aggregate.
Different people like to do different things with their free time. Some people like to read or watch Netflix. Others prefer to hit up a happy hour or stay home eating ice cream. But lot of us activists like to spend at least some of our free time commenting on legislation (preferably while eating ice cream).
Every federal rule has a comment period. Once a new rule is published in the Federal Register, you can add a comment from the comfort of your own computer. For those of us with a smartphone–and, like myself, the attention span to match–there’s also the app Countable, which allows you to quickly read up on proposed legislation and vote “yea” or “nay.” Your vote will then be passed on to your representatives.
Bug Your Senators and Representatives
To comment on more general issues, writing personal letter, making phone calls and, most effective of all, scheduling meetings with politicians are still effective.
Communicating with our representatives is still very similar to the days of yore, except with one new twist: we need to pump up the volume. Whereas in the past it was enough to sign a petition or make a half-hearted phone call every few months, nowadays we must integrate these calls and personal letters into our daily routines. To make life easier for those lunchtime calls, there’s a calling sheet called “We’re His Problem Now” which updates every week with issues and applicable scripts.
It is also necessary that you get in your representatives’ faces with lobby days. Prepared speeches and packets with articles and testimonies pertaining to your issue of choice are all key to effectively communicating an issue. Local groups like Tuesdays with Toomey are already doing this, and gaining media coverage.
[And shameless plug: we hope you’ll join us this Monday as we rally outside Senators Casey’s and Toomey’s offices to call for the rejection of climate-denying Cabinet members. Everyone’s encouraged to come, as well as to write personal letters to be delivered during the event.]
Proof is in the pudding that lobbying still works: just recently, after thousands of phone calls and a barrage of bad press, the people of the United States stopped the House of Representatives from dismantling the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Which just goes to show: even the most controversial politicians will still fight to keep their jobs, just like everyone else.