On Tuesday, Americans across New England joined their countrymen in casting their votes. As the results have become clear, one thing has become clear with it: It was a good night for science and for clean energy.
Maine, for instance, elected former wind developer Angus King as its new Senator, who ran with an ad dedicated to the need to address climate change and support sustainable energy. (Watch that ad here.) Meanwhile changes in both houses of Maine’s legislature are likely to dampen Governor LePage’s unpredictable but largely obstructionist posture. The same is true in Massachusetts, which elected Elizabeth Warren, a strong supporter for renewable energy and climate change mitigation. New Hampshire and Vermont also saw the pendulum swung strongly in a way that is likely to advance much needed efforts to protect the health of their environment and communities. Rhode Island seems to be the only state that has kept its status quo. (For full perspectives on each state, click here.)
In the end, New Englanders voted for a strong environmental agenda, and for candidates who shared that support. These local trends also broadly echo national voting trends. Obama, for instance, was strongly supported by Latino voters. A landmark 2012 study showed that 92% of Latino voters believe we have a responsibility to take care of the earth. The pro-environment agenda endorsed by Obama no doubt contributed to his support.
In reelecting Barack Obama, Americans also voted for an administration that has made science-friendly appointments to science positions, that has a high degree of scientific accomplishment, and that has been very supportive of science education and research. And while the President was disappointingly silent about climate change and clean energy policy during the campaign, his administration’s pro-health and pro-environment actions to reduce toxic air pollution and to improve automobile fuel economy standards no doubt resonated with voters nationally.
While there were many issues on the ballot, here in New England and across the country, there are also some very simple lessons from this election. The voters said a few things:
Yes, we believe in science.
Yes, we believe climate change is happening.
Yes, we need more sources of sustainable energy.
Yes, we want candidates who move us away from the dirty energy of the past to a more prosperous future.
And no, dirty energy, you cannot buy my vote.
Despite historic spending, the money spent by the dirty energy industry to try to buy this election didn’t seem to have much effect. In the end, clean energy and science were big winners.
New England cemented its reputation on Tuesday as a bastion of progressive environmental politics. Voters across our region want action on climate change, they want to advance clean energy, and they want to strengthen their communities.
It is my sincere hope that the elected officials in each state listen to their voters and make progress on these issues. It is also my sincere belief that we will be stronger as a movement if we work together across our New England: while some of our issues are local and some cry out for national leadership, many are regional in nature and can most effectively be addressed at the regional scale.
And then there’s the pragmatic reality that visionary leadership from Washington is very unlikely at this politically fractious time. But with New England’s leaders – of all political stripes – largely sharing a common vision for an economically, socially and environmentally thriving region, we can and must chart our own course right here. To succeed, we need to work together. When New England works together, we have shown that we can.