Backyard Talk

Millennials, Generation Z: if you’re mad climate change deniers are affecting your future, go vote.

by Victoria Chappell, CHEJ Science & Tech Fellow

Despite the noticeable effect climate change has on health, the Trump administration has rolled back environmental regulations while promoting fossil fuels and downplaying mentions of climate change on government websites.

During the recent June G20 summit that occurred in Osaka, Japan, the U.S. was again split from the other 19 countries during discussions for climate change. While the other 19 countries recommitted to the full implementation of the Paris agreement, President Trump again refused to sign the climate change part of the communique, a recurring event since pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement back in June 2017.

Regardless, more Americans are pushing the government to do more in terms of policies and actions to control climate change. In a 2018 survey released by RFF’s Surveying American Attitudes toward Climate Change and Clean Energy project, public awareness and support for action on climate change has increased and is becoming an ever growing topic of discussion, especially for the 2020 election. Although many Americans are in support of government action, only around a third are in support of an extra tax of $100 a year to help. In Americans demand climate action (as long as it doesn’t cost much): Reuters poll, the author reiterates that support quickly drops when there is a personal price to pay, making it increasingly difficult for both Democrats and Republicans to formulate a plan for cleaner energy.

However, summers are becoming increasingly warmer and with it, the risk to human health rises. In response to the increase in illnesses and deaths, dozens of medical and public health organizations have signed the U.S. Call on Action on Climate Health and Equity in an effort of bringing the topic of climate change back to the forefront. This is one of the issues coming forward for the 2020 campaign season; urging government, businesses and leaders to recognize that climate change will require the coordination and cooperation of government, businesses, and communities alike.

Our generations, Millennials and Generation Z together, are calling climate change the “greatest public health challenge of the 21st century”, and we are aiming to promote policies and support candidates that will move us towards safe climate goals that will reap significant health benefits for future generations. To do this, we must ensure that climate change remain on the political agenda.

As we get closer to the 2020 elections, it becomes imperative that voters of all ages understand the costs affiliated with doing nothing – namely in personal health, environmental deterioration, and the negative consequences resulting in what we are not doing now that will impact future generations.

By the time the 2020 elections role around, even more of our new generation will be of voting age: if you’re angry about climate inaction, inform yourself of the candidate’s climate policies and go vote.

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Lorie Shaul / Creative Commons
Lorie Shaul / Creative Commons

Backyard Talk

Building a Kaleidoscope Movement

by Lois Gibbs
As we approach the 2020 elections, I am excited about the opportunities to engage in a broader pubic conversation about creating real social change. Elections provide us with opportunities to engage the public in conversations about serious deep changes that are needed, not only environmental and health but social justice issues across the board. Class, race, living wage, immigration policies, economic growth, climate change, environmental justice are all connected. We need to begin today to expand the movement and build bridges with other leaders, develop strategies and take advantage of the 2020 public conversation to move an agenda that is about people, protection, jobs, justice and so much more. Now is the time to plan and now is the time to build those bridges to work together for change.
Over the 38 years since the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) was founded, we have dedicated ourselves to broadening the base and strengthening the skills of the grassroots movement for environmental health.  Our goals are to raise popular consciousness about fundamental problems in the current system, provide a positive, unifying vision, and build a sense of empowerment by reinforcing the power of an organized group of people to create change.
The Kaleidoscope Movement is a formation of groups at local, state and national levels that are joined together around building and strengthening community.  The issues are varied, as are the class, race and geographical locations.  What is common is the desire for justice, to prevent harm to human health, the economy, environment and the ability of our children to achieve the American promise.  It is not anchored in a single political party or class of people, but rather inclusive, dynamic and strategic.
This is a movement that takes people where they are, listens to their concerns and builds power around their issues and concerns.  It is not D.C. or policy focused, rather it’s focused on people, values and strategic place/practice-based goals. For example, our definition of “environmental health and justice issues” is where people live, work, learn, pray and play.  Systemic change has come from this approach by building power at the local level.
The results historically have been very exciting.  By organizing one family at a time, one church at a time, one school at a time, and one neighborhood at a time, CHEJ and partners have been able to accomplish things that have been out of reach to groups taking a policy or regulatory approach to systemic change.  We have our supporters and grassroots activists to thank for this success. In fact, in most cases the policy has not kept up with the shifts in practices.  Our methodology for change is to bring people together, build power around issues people care about that are strategic and fit into a larger vision of change that is needed.
CHEJ does not bring people together to agree on a platform or policy agenda and then try to move groups into action.  Our approach, instead of top down, is to pick strategic issues that people care about and then move people directly into action from the bottom up.  Through this process the public conversations raise fundamental values and the work is based on solutions that are source based for a more permanent change in public opinion and in practice.
The victories of changing the “practice,” are unlike regulatory or policies based wins. These victories are not as likely to a slide backwards or are enforcement centered.  Consequently, they stay in place even when there is a change in elected representation or a decision maker.
Through these specific issue related efforts, CHEJ linked activists together to build a broad progressive movement.  While organizing, educating, and building the base, we actively teach people about the root cause of their problems and the need to become active participants in the governance of their communities and state.  Our work also helps activists experience the power of working collaboratively in local or statewide coalitions.
To continue to build a progressive movement, it is critical to find ways to remove the barriers between organized groups nationwide, identify common frames that can unite groups of groups, and take advantage of opportunities to flex this multi-faceted, multi-issued political muscle.
CHEJ works with diverse constituencies that focus on a single issue – such as nuclear disarmament activists, disease-related groups focusing on issues like birth defects or breast cancer, environmental justice leaders, firefighters, teachers, parents, faith-based leaders or toxics use reduction groups.  We are all learning to support each other, respect each other’s issues and underlying shared values, and appreciate the value of speaking with a unified voice.
2020 offers us all the opportunity to continue to not only learn about one another’s cultures, issues, and tightly held values but to advance them through public conversations this election year. We all win if we continue to break down barriers between diverse segments of the environmental health movement and building bridges to related social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, Health Care for All, living wage campaigns, building a new economy and so many more.
I believe that by investing in ground up activities across lines of issues, race, gender and geographic boundaries, we can create the world we want. I’m looking forward to this challenge this year with the many opportunities that will present themselves during all presidential election years.

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Sign the Petition Demanding a DNC Climate Debate!

Why isn’t the DNC holding a climate debate? 
In the past two weeks, climate change activists have been furiously protesting after Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez announced that he did not support the Democratic party having a climate specific debate for the 202o elections.
According to Perez, holding a climate debate would be putting too much focus on a single issue, especially when there are candidates like Jay Inslee who are focusing their entire campaign around climate change.
However, environmental organizations don’t see climate as only  a single issue, rather the issue that will define everything in the coming decade. 314 Action pledged $100,000 to put on a climate debate, and 15 out of the 23 Democratic candidates want to see a climate-specific debate.
As Vox reports, many democratic voters want to make climate a central issue in the 2020 election, especially since it was hardly brought up in the 2016 election cycle. In Iowa, three quarters of Iowa Democratic caucus voters wanted to see climate change treated as the single most threatening risk to humanity. <Read more>
Sign the petition for the DNC to hold a climate debate!
Most specifically, Sunrise Movement is currently holding a sit in in the DNC protesting the organization’s lack of movement on the climate debate front. Sunrise Movement is a an organization building a network of young people to create an army fighting climate change.
In 2019, fighting climate change is more important than ever. The midwest is flooding, more temperature anomalies have been reported, and large chunks of the polar ice caps are breaking off. What’s even worse is that climate change has the potential to have impact marginalized communities the most. No matter your political affiliations, it’s important to discuss this issue across the aisle.
Sunrise Movement is circulating a petition to demand the DNC hold a climate debate. Click here to sign the petition.