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Dear EcoGirl: Is it really worth the effort to vote? Also, do you have any recommendations for the upcoming election? Signed, On the Sidelines
Dear Sidelines: Thank you for your great questions. Yes, I'm passionate about the importance of voting, so I'm delighted to address the common reasons people don't vote. I'll also discuss the vital eco-issue on this year's ballot.
Answering the anti-voting arguments
1) Argument: "The government has nothing to do with my
life. I have to take care of my survival and family."
The purpose of government is to address these collective needs, doing together what we can't do alone. That's why past generations shaped the structures we have today, as imperfect as they might be. But when we don't constructively participate in government, we squander these opportunities, hand our power over to others, leave our shared needs unaddressed, and become collectively more vulnerable to con men and brutes.
2) Argument: "Voting doesn't matter. I had high hopes
for President Obama, but he's no different than the
So if we assess Obama by more realistic standards, and recognize his need to balance many viewpoints, his positive progress becomes more obvious, including improvements in environmental laws and international relations. This starkly contrasts with the disastrous Republican policies of deregulation, handouts to the rich, disrespect of other cultures, and destruction of liberties.
3) Argument: "My one vote is too small to make a difference."
Response: This reminds me of the cartoon where a crowd of people all say with one shared voice balloon, "My vote doesn't matter."
The truth is that our votes do add up. That's why so many people over the years have worked so hard to get voting rights, standing up to both dictators and social norms, and immigrating here under perilous circumstances. I think that when we understand our real power in democracy, we recognize the key role that our right to vote plays in forming alliances and demanding politicians' attention.
4) Argument: "All government officials are corrupt."
Response: There's an old adage that we get the government we deserve. While it's convenient to see government as a separate entity, the truth is that its character is a reflection of our actions &emdash; and inactions.
So, yes, corporate money has too much influence on our government, but it's often because we've abdicated our power by not showing up. On the other hand, when we do participate, better outcomes can occur. In fact, "we the people" are the only ones powerful enough to stand up to status quo interests.
And the easiest way to have our voice heard is by voting. So how do you start? Contact your registrar of voters. In Sonoma County, it's at 565-6800 or www.sonoma-county.org/regvoter. To vote by mail, request a mail-in ballot by Oct. 26.
You can also join groups such as the Coffee Party, an option to the Tea Party that seeks to respectfully encourage government to better reflect our shared wishes. See www.coffeepartyusa.com.
Recommendations for this election
The most important vote you can make this year for an eco-sane future is NO on Proposition 23. This deceptively-named "California Jobs Initiative" actually has one goal: to delay and essentially repeal AB32, California's landmark bipartisan "Global Warming Solutions Act."
In addition to derailing our ability to meet AB32's greenhouse gas reduction targets, the polluter-funded Prop. 23 would cost us half a million green jobs, billions of investment dollars, and our global position in one of the economy's few bright spots, clean tech. More about Prop. 23 is in the sidebar below and at www.stopdirtyenergyprop.com.
Also be sure to vote for candidates who oppose Prop. 23, including Jerry Brown (for Governor) and Senator Barbara Boxer. Their Republican opponents are on the wrong side of this key decision.
For more specific voting suggestions, see your local eco-groups and the Progressive Democrats at www.pdsonoma.org.
Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter. Email your questions about going green to <EcoGirl [at] AskEcoGirl.info> for possible inclusion in future columns. View past columns at <www.AskEcoGirl.info>.
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"EcoGirl: Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone."
© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2010. All rights reserved.
Sidebar: Prop 23
In this election, the number one vote you can make for our eco-sane future is NO on Proposition 23. This alone is reason enough to go to the ballot box. The deceptively-named "California Jobs Initiative" actually has one goal: to delay and thus essentially repeal AB32, California's landmark bipartisan "Global Warming Solutions Act."
With looming climate disruption and tepid action at the national and international levels, it was thrilling in 2006 to see our state agree to AB32's target of reducing state greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Adam Werbach, past president of the Sierra Club, calls AB32 "the most significant climate change regulation in America today." Because of laws like this, California leads the nation in solar power and clean energy venture capital, forging a path for others to follow.
AB32 is still supported by two-thirds of California voters, and many businesses as well. So, it's not a surprise that Prop. 23 doesn't actually debate the merits of the law it wants to repeal but instead falsely claims to be a pro-jobs initiative, hitting that current hot button.
But the truth is just the opposite. A recent analysis demonstrates that Prop. 23 would actually destroy half a million jobs, harm billions in investments, and set back our global position in one of the few bright spots in our economy, the growing clean tech arena. It would also stop AB32's progress in increasing true energy security, improving resource efficiency, reducing pollution-induced illness, and steering us away from climate collapse.
I think the fact that 97% of Prop. 23's funding comes from oil interests and 89% from out of state (including two Texas oil refiners) reveals clearly that this is the status quo clinging to its own financial interests at the expense of our survival.
What happens with Prop. 23 will be a key signal in the battle to stop global climate change, so it's vital that we stand up for the world we want to create. I like author Alex Steffen's comment, "If the children of the future could vote, they'd cast their ballots unanimously: No on 23." For more information, see www.stopdirtyenergyprop.com and www.cleaneconomynetwork.org/sites/default/files/Prop_23_GoingBackwards.pdf.
For more information
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MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC
Obama in Command: The Rolling Stone Interview. "In an Oval
Office interview, the president discusses the Tea Party, the war, the
economy and what's at stake this November." Whatever you think of
Obama, I recommend that you read this article and share it with
friends! I think it shows his perspective well, and that he's as
perceptive, idealistic, and realistic as he ever was. We're darn
lucky to have what he offers. Even if it's imperfect, it's still far
superior to the threats of the Bush/McCain ilk. So let's start from
seeing the value he brings, even if we push for more of what we
The official state information on the propositions
More about the Progressive Democrats of America.
"Mobilizing the progressive vote."
"founded in 2004 ... We seek to build a party and government controlled by citizens, not corporate elites&emdash;with policies that serve the broad public interest, not just private interests. ... For over two decades, the party declined as its leadership listened more to the voices of corporations than those of Americans. PDA strives to rebuild the Democratic Party from the bottom up&emdash;from every congressional district to statewide party structures to the corridors of power in Washington, where we work arm in arm with the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In just five years, PDA and its allies have shaken up the political status quo&emdash;on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Medicare for all, voter rights, accountability, and economic and environmental justice."
More about Meg Whitman's position on Prop. 23. After my column went to press, Meg Whitman did an about face and came out against Prop. 23, the measure that would essentially repeal AB32. However, it's hard to believe that this is sincere since (a) she's still opposed to AB 32; and (b) it was likely done to avoid alienating the essential independent voters, who strongly oppose Prop. 23. It seems that she wants to have it both ways, hoping that we won't notice the core contradiction.
Meg Whitman joins Jerry Brown against Prop. 23
I hope that you find this information useful. Please let me know your thoughts; you can email me at [ecogirl [at] askecogirl.info]!
For more information on this and related eco-topics, see my other Ask EcoGirl columns.
For more about my writing in general, on eco-issues and more, see my What's News page. My latest big article is True Green, published in NorthBay biz magazine. It's mission is to readers avoid green imposters and choose to buy and be authentically green. I had so much fun writing this!
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