A version of this blog was originally published in March of 2018.
When it comes to national leadership, New England has always been ahead of the curve. The first public school, the first newspaper, the first veteran’s hospital, the first subway, the first microwave oven, and yes, the first ear muffs, were all pioneered in our backyard. And on environmental progress, our region’s legacy is just as sterling.
New England has consistently been a trailblazer in addressing climate change, clean energy, water and air pollution, and ocean health – from the first regional cap-and-trade program in the country to the nation’s first offshore wind farm. But with obstacles to progress continuing to mount under the Trump administration, it is more critical today than ever to elect leaders at the local, state, and federal level who will continue to provide the leadership New England is known for. That’s why next month, we all need to make our voices heard at the polls.
We have a lot on the line in New England this November: six governorships, five Senate seats, 21 House seats, and hundreds of state and local offices. In every one of these races, it’s on us to put the issues we care about front and center. It’s on us to demand commitments to reducing carbon pollution, growing renewable energy, expanding clean transportation, and protecting our ocean from oil drilling and other threats. And then, it’s on us to hold our leaders’ feet to the fire (a metaphor all too fitting for the challenges we face).
Trump’s Out of Paris, But New England Is (Mostly) In
When President Trump announced his misguided plan to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement last June, our nation became isolated from the rest of the global community dedicated to fighting climate change – one of only three countries that were not signatories (and the other two, Nicaragua and Syria, have since signed on). Only two of New England’s governors – Gov. Chris Sununu in New Hampshire and Gov. Paul LePage in Maine stood behind the President’s irresponsible decision (as did Maine Congressman Bruce Poliquin).
Fortunately, while these two governors backed down, the rest of our New England leaders stepped up. Governors of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Massachusetts jumped to fill the void left by President Trump, joining ten other states, Puerto Rico, numerous mayors, and business and education leaders to assure New Englanders, the nation, and the world that we remain committed to fighting climate change. And they pledged to act on this promise.
New and Familiar Faces in 2018
But as we head into this latest election season, it’s on us to hold our elected representatives at the local, state, and federal levels to a higher standard.
Together, we have an opportunity to ask all of the candidates where they stand on their commitment to fight climate change. It’s also a chance to let all of our sitting governors, members of Congress, state legislators, and local leaders know that words and pledges must be backed up with meaningful action.
Elections Matter, and So Do Our Votes
Here’s the thing: Environmental issues are public health issues. They’re social justice issues. They’re economic issues. They’re tied to every part of life here in New England. So, when we say that candidates must make our environment a priority, it’s because we understand what’s at risk, from our thriving seafood industry, to childhood asthma, to millions in tourism revenue, and so much more.
Last December, a single voter could have decided control of the Virginia House of Delegates. As former President Obama recently observed, “Don’t tell me your vote doesn’t matter . . . and if you thought elections don’t matter, I hope these last two years have corrected that impression.” More than anyone, candidates for office understand the adage that “every vote counts.” And when they hear that your vote, the votes of your friends and neighbors, and the votes of thousands throughout your state will be determined by their willingness to make our environment a priority, they’ll have no choice but to commit or quit.
What Can We Do? Head to the Polls on November 6
So, let’s do something. In these last weeks before Election Day, go out to campaign events, rallies, and town halls and ask candidates what they’ll do to address climate change and protect our environment. Stop canvassers on the street and press them on their candidates’ plans. Call a campaign’s headquarters and tell them your vote is dependent on these positions. Don’t let them avoid or evade. Ask again and again until you get a meaningful answer.
Most of all, vote on November 6. It’s by making our voices heard at the polls that we can best move forward CLF’s advocacy and make a difference for New England’s environment and communities.
CLF is a 501©(3) nonprofit and as such does not endorse or oppose any candidate for office. CLF urges all people, not just those interested in protecting our environment and public health, to participate in the democratic process and make their voices heard by exercising their right to vote.