It Ain’t Over Yet, But Let’s Celebrate Some Small Wins

Here are some noteworthy advances on the environmental front during this election cycle.

The race is not over yet, but it does seem like Vice-President Joe Biden is close to clinching the presidency. It is, however, going to be a long slog before the final winner of this harrowing election cycle is declared. In the meantime, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work that environmental and social justice activists have been doing over the past four years that have led to climate and the environment becoming a key issue in this election cycle. Here are some noteworthy wins and signs of hope.

photo of chloe maxmin
Former Brower Youth Award winner Chloe Maxmin dethroned Republican incumbent Dana Dow to represent Senate District 13 in Maine. Photo by 350.org.

Colorado

After being hunted to extinction in Colorado in the 1940s, wolves will finally return to the state’s Western Slope following the narrow passage of Proposition 114. The win represents the first voter-led wildlife reintroduction for the state. Biologists say the Southern Rocky Mountains offer millions of acres of habitat for the canines and can support several hundred wolves. (This measure comes on the same day the Trump administration finalized a controversial rule which removes Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for all gray wolves in the lower 48 states.)

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Nevada

In a win for renewables, Nevada voters passed Question 6 on Tuesday. The ballot measure amends the state constitution to require electric utilities to obtain at least 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. This is the second time Nevadans approved the measure — amendments to the Nevada constitution must be affirmed in two elections.

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Florida

Orange County, Florida overwhelmingly approved a measure to adopt a ‘rights of nature’ measure recognizing rights of the county’s rivers and streams, along with a right to clean water for residents. The measure, known as the “Right to Clean Water Initiative,” is the first in Florida to recognize the rights of nature, and empowers any resident to enforce the rights of waterways and the rights of people to clean water. Although the first initiative of its kind in Florida, over three dozen cities, townships, and counties across the US have adopted laws similar laws creating legally enforceable rights of waterways and other ecosystems.

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New Jersey

More than 70 percent of voters in East Brunswick, New Jersey, voted in favor of a ballot measure to create a renewable energy aggregation program, leading to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. The program will give residents of this suburban town, which is part of the New York City metropolitan area, a ‘bulk buying’ discount on their electricity bills. East Brunswick now joins the growing movement of towns and cities who are leading the movement to divest from fossil fuels.

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Columbus, Ohio

A similar ballot measure, Issue 1, in Columbus, Ohio, that sets up a system enabling residents to purchase up to 100 percent renewable energy by 2023 was overwhelmingly supported by voters. More than 76 percent voted to pass the measure that would

automatically enroll every residential and small-business customer in the city in the renewable energy plan with an option to remove themselves if they wish and select another power provider.

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Maine

In a win that hits close to home for Earth Island, 2013 Brower Youth Award winner Chloe Maxmin (Democrat) dethroned Republican incumbent Dana Dow to represent Senate District 13 in Maine! In 2013, Maxmin was instrumental in getting Harvard University to join the growing movement across US campuses calling for college and university administrations to divest from fossil fuels. A progressive, Maxmin ran on the promise of a Green New Deal and offering a “politics as public service” in a strong GOP district.

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Climate Voters Make Their Mark

Yes, yes, we can’t really trust polls. But right now, we will take whatever positive news we can get. Exit polling found that “74 percent of Biden voters say addressing climate change was a very important factor in their choice.” According to another poll, two-thirds of voters said they think climate change is a serious problem. Oh, and even Fox News says 70 percent of voters want the government spending more on green energy. It seems safe to say that if Biden ends up pulling off a win, he has climate voters to thank, at least in part.

Hope for Paris Accord

The US officially exited the Paris Climate Accord a day after Election Day, three years after Trump announced he was pulling out of the international climate forum. As NPR reports, “the American departure from the Paris Agreement also means the end of US contributions to a global fund to help smaller and poorer countries that bear disproportionate costs of climate change. The United States originally pledged $3 billion to help such nations transition from fossil fuels and adapt to a hotter Earth — the largest amount of any country, but still far less than America’s fair share, given its cumulative carbon emissions.” But now that Biden seems all but set to win the presidency, looks like we might be back in the game soon.

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We are standing at a pivotal moment in history, one in which education and advocacy around the climate emergency, public health, racial injustice, and economic inequity is imperative. At Earth Island Journal, we have doubled down on our commitment to uplifting stories that often go unheard, to centering the voices of frontline communities, and to always speak truth to power. We are nonprofit publication. We don’t have a paywall because our mission is to inform, educate and inspire action. Which is why we rely on readers like you for support. If you believe in the work we do, please consider making a tax-deductible year-end donation to our Green Journalism Fund.

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