This column is focused on sustainability issues that relate to the current season. This is the season of voting, and that directly relates to sustainability. This is a political post, and I do not mean to argue about issues, but instead discuss the importance of being actively involved in our republic and to look at the issues from a perspective that values environmental sustainability.
Back to a brief history of voting in our country to provide additional motivation. Voting in the United States began in 1789 with the Constitution granting the states the power to set voting requirements, limited to property-owning, white, protestant males (6% of the population). In 1870, the passing of the Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed non-white men and freed males the right to vote; however, Jim Crow laws quickly followed to limit these non-white, poor men from participating and were upheld by the Supreme Court until the twentieth century. Finally, after a hard and long fight in 1920, women were guaranteed the right to vote through the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and in 1924, Native Americans were given the right to vote without giving up their tribal affiliation (the irony). Adults 18-21 were given the right to vote in 1971 with the Twenty-sixth Amendment because if they could fight in the military, they should be able to vote (History of Voting in America, www.sos.wa.gov). The point is people have fought for the right to vote in this country for its entire existence. Can you imagine what our ancestors would think about 50% of the population simply deciding not to vote?
The world’s leading climate scientists announced last month that they were wrong. We do not have until 2050 to save the planet from irreversible change, and we will see massive drought, floods, fires, extreme heat, mass extinction, and violent storms. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has modified this to 2030 (twelve years!), meaning the urgency to change human behavior is critical. This election matters to the future of all species on earth.
Since 1800, with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the burning of fossil fuels, carbon dioxide has increased from a natural 270 parts per million (ppm), which is part of our unique atmosphere that allows us to live on earth, to over 405 ppm (ipcc.ch). That doesn’t even count methane and other greenhouse gases; earth has increased its temperature by an average 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit already. This is drastically changing our climate, effecting everyone, but especially the poor. Many human migrations are already happening due to drought, lack of food and water, disappearing land, violence to secure resources, etc. Therefore, we have no choice but to vote according to the needs of the environment. If you are only basing your decisions on the economy, climate change is already costing the United States billions of dollars a year, will drive more migration to our country, and will make parts of the U.S. uninhabitable. In 2017, it is estimated that $306,000,000,000 was spent on weather-related incidents. The United States is the biggest polluter yet the only country in the world that is not part of the Paris Climate Accord, but the people can make a difference. In every way, voting for the protection of the earth makes sense.
Environmental sustainability is a political, economic, and social issue that requires each of us to participate. One important environmental issue on the ballot is Proposition 112. This proposition states that new oil and gas development platforms would need to be 2,500 feet away from schools, hospitals and neighborhoods. This is a human health concern. Oil and gas will still be extracted; it is just the platform would need to be a healthier distance from residents. According to Colorado Public Radio, the fossil fuel industry has already spent $31 million to scare Colorado voters into thinking it would shut down the industry, but it is untrue. This funding could have provided amazing subsidies for renewable energies to Colorado residents, and make a profit for the energy industry if used wisely. Yes on 112 to create healthy boundaries, but no it will not cut down on the oil and gas extracted.
As far as candidates, most Republicans are against environmental regulations. They do not seem to follow scientific evidence. I am not a big fan of Democrats either; however, their party seems to do more to promote environmental regulations and beneficial social issues. And those are the two main options, but most other countries have multiple parties, and if we had 100% voter turnout more options could be viable.
In Colorado, can still register to vote but today is the day. You can register here and find more information about voting in Colorado: http://justvotecolorado.org. It is too late to mail-in the ballot now, but you can drop it off at one of the drop boxes in every town in Grand County. In-person voting has also already started and you can check Just Vote Colorado for locations near you. Bring your state issued i.d., utility bill, passport, or other form of identification. You only have until 7pm tonight at most locations, so enjoy your right that was fought to the death to provide for you.
How do you become an informed and educated voter? There are so many resources. This link has all of the voter guides in Colorado: https://www.coloradoballotguide.com. I recommend this link so you can see all of the different recommendations based on different view points and I recommend basing your decisions off of environmental organizations.
Being an informed voter is difficult with millions of dollars being spent on elections by corporations and billionaires with greedy interests. You should spend some time, use the resources available, and VOTE today!
Robyn Wilson has degrees in International Business, Sustainable Communities, and Bilingual and Multicultural Education. She teaches permaculture design at Colorado Mesa University, and returned to Grand County to manage the cabin community of Grandma Miller’s New Horizons.