24 September, 2021

The Humanitarian Collective

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OPINION: Voting Rights Must be at the Center of Climate Justice Efforts

As a New Yorker deeply engaged in our most recent Democratic Mayoral Primary, I could not get Eric Adams’s one-line, campaign-defining slogan out of my head. During every interview, discussion forum, and campaign rally, he repeated consistently: “The prerequisite to prosperity is public safety.” While I remain deeply opposed to Adams’s policies and vision for the city, I couldn’t help but adopt this brand of thinking towards the most defining global issue of my generation: climate change. 

In early July, as floods ravaged wealthy western Europe—with 200 deaths now reported—Texas Democrats fled their state, risking arrest by state officials, to prevent the Republican state legislature from passing the most sweeping voter suppression laws in decades. If Texans lived in an ideal world, where Republicans tried to win elections without relying on voter suppression, the state could potentially be won by Democrats in the 2024 Presidential election. With significant Black and Latinx populations that reliably vote Democratically, a blue Texas could secure a federal Executive Branch that believes in basic science, which includes the understanding that our planet is warming. And with Republicans consistently spreading fears of Communism and Socialism throughout the nation, it seems unlikely that we will elect a candidate similar to Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the Presidency. That is, a candidate with initiatives aggressive enough to substantially mitigate the climate crisis. Instead, we must work with what we have. 

Early in the 2020 Presidential election, Joe Biden was cast by the progressive wing of the party as weak on climate change. And this was not difficult to believe. After gaining significant traction in the South Carolina Democratic Primary—largely due to Biden’s strength among Black voters—candidate Biden’s brand evolved almost exclusively into a full display of his electability. Perhaps one of the only times the Biden campaign spoke about the climate crisis on a national scale was during the Vice Presidential debate. What we heard was not promising. According to then-Senator Kamala Harris, Joe Biden “ha[d] been very clear” that he will not end fracking if elected. This debate, nearing the November 3rd election, left climate activists hopeless that reducing emissions was a priority for a Biden Administration. 

Nevertheless, Joe Biden has surprised us. This month the White House and Democratic leaders agreed to a $3.5 billion budget package that included key provisions to mitigate the climate crisis, including tax incentives to electrify the car industry as well as clean energy sources in order to stray away from fossil fuel dependency. At this point in the American political atmosphere, it is abundantly clear that this sort of spending-focused climate initiative will never be taken with a Republican in office.

The enfranchisement of voters of color as a whole propelled this change to the Executive Branch—Georgia is a clear example of this. Despite voter suppression efforts, including a significant reduction of the number of available polling locations in communities of color, President Biden prevailed in Georgia almost exclusively because of the efforts of voting rights activists, most notably Stacey Abrams. Helping register nearly 800,000 new voters, Abrams and other local voting rights organizations did the work to achieve the slim 12,000 vote margin needed to help secure not only Biden’s victory but also the possibility to act on climate issues after four years of destructive environmental policies by the Trump administration. 

If this action is to be continued, and if the chance to save our planet is to remain, we must ensure that Republicans are not rigging elections in their favor—every state assembly seat, state senate election, city council position that is lost at the hands of voter suppression is another blow to the possibility of a future where our children will not have to worry about the fate of the planet they live on. 

Below are several resources dedicated to restoring voting rights across the United States. Donations, petition links, volunteer opportunities, and other action items are available on the web pages of these organizations. 

7 Voting Rights Organizations You Can Help Today:

https://blog.givingassistant.org/support-voting-rights-organizations/

The Voting Rights Alliance:

https://www.votingrightsalliance.org/

Sources: 

Eric Adams quote: https://www.boropark24.com/news/mayoral-candidate-eric-adams-lays-out-his-vision-to-make-nyc-safe

Flood death count 200: 

https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/death-count-rises-to-200-in-europe-floods-2491008

Less polling places: 

​​https://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/voting-precincts-closed-across-georgia-since-election-oversight-lifted/bBkHxptlim0Gp9pKu7dfrN/

Biden Climate policies: 

Kamala quote:

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/fracking-flip-flop-harris-past-remarks-resurface-after-claiming-biden-wh-wouldnt-issue-ban

Stacey abrams voter registration efforts: 

https://thehill.com/changing-america/respect/diversity-inclusion/525387-how-stacey-abrams-helped-get-out-the-black-vote

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Hello! My name is Alex Nagin and I'm 17 years old. I enjoy travel, eating, politics, and making new friends. I like Mango and Pad Thai. I live by the quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”. (-JFK)

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