Vote Locally – Think Globally

cross-posted from itsgettinghotinhere.org – Dispatches from the Youth Climate Movement

This week on November 3rd, polls will open in communities across America. The ballot may not be filled with Presidential or Congressional candidates and the money spent on the campaigns is substantially less, but voting is still essential. Local politicians shape the communities we live in and should be taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate change and to ensure that our community’s energy sources are safe and clean.

A couple events this week have made me inspired by the work of local politicians and the importance of strong communities. The first occasion was the Asheville 350 rally in which over 300 people turned out in a city of 75,000 and listened as the mayor and I issued a call for bold climate action.

The second occasion was at our UNC Asheville environmental club meeting this week where a city council candidate came to ask for our votes and tell us about all the incredible sustainability projects she was already working on in city council.DSC_5378

However notable this one visit is, it was compounded by the fact that she was the third city council candidate to ask to speak to our club this month.

They get it. They know that young people are fed up with seeing job losses, dirty energy, and runaway climate change direct our future and that they will be voted out if they do not seek solutions.

In cities across America college students constitute a voting bloc that if mobilized will change election outcomes. We saw it happen last year. Progress has been made since then with politicians realizing that we are not going away and neither is climate change, injustice, and our need for jobs. The Senate is now debating a climate bill that at least attempts to address climate change. Though it is appalling weak and misaligned relative to what scientists say, and also to the actions of local governments nationwide that have already made and met more ambitious commitments to reduce emissions.

Has your mayor made a climate commitment? Over 1,000 U.S. mayors, representing almost one-third of Americans have pledged to meet or surpass the Kyoto Protocol emissions targets of a cut by 7% from 1990 levels by 2012 in their communities and to urge state and federal governments to pass strong climate and energy legislation (http://www.usmayors.org/climateprotection/). Seattle and Los Angeles have already met this goal and reduced their emissions over 7% because of strong leadership by local politicians and citizens.

Building strong communities is essential to fixing this climate mess we have found ourselves in. Though essential, federal legislation and an international treaty can only provide the tools to foster the development of community sustainability, the rest must come from within. We’ve got to have leaders in local governments that we can talk to and who we trust because they are the ones on the ground shaping our world. So catch up on the candidates or referendums on the ballot this Tuesday, and then go vote.

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