Why Voting is the Best Thing You Can Do For the Environment

As much as I like to believe that my individual choices to be vegetarian, use less plastic, offset my travel carbon emissions help the environment, the real change has to come from a mix of innovation and full-on policy changes. Bill Gates, just released an article and a quiz on Gates Notes about climate change and while I consider myself fairly educated in the climate area, it really opened my eyes to the systemic changes needed.

So many people already recycle and compost, bike or take public transportation, switch to a vegan diet or install solar panels, and yet they don’t show up and vote when it counts. According to the Environmental Voter Project, around 15 million “environmentalists” – citizens who rank protecting the planet as a top priority – did not vote in the 2014 midterm elections. Interesting, because voting is significantly easier than doing all the other individual work they do to try to help the environment.

Here’s the deal: we are a very pivotal moment in history and it is time to make sure that the future of this planet is secured.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released a report in August that discusses the dire need to cap temperature increases at 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels (for reference we are 1 degree Celsius over pre-industrial levels now). If it hits 2 degrees Celsius it could mean a loss of major eco-systems, countries and states (including Florida). Scientists are predicting a major storm by 2030 that will take out Miami.

The IPCC report states that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require ‘rapid and far-reaching’ transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.” I.e. We would need carbon emissions to decrease by unprecedented levels in the next 12 years to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in all of these areas.

The United States is currently the number two carbon-emitting country on the planet. As a country it will be no small feat to make these changes; it is going to take major action from both the private and the public sector. It will require intense innovation to make the changes in the transportation, electricity and agriculture industries, plus keep them within reach of the masses.

I ran my personal calculator on my carbon emissions and thanks to flights and travel, I am in big trouble. If I could put solar panels on my house I could nearly cut the carbon emissions in half, but the other half is flights and I am not sure what us travelers are going to do here. We need some major innovation in the travel space.

As it stands, no country (forget our individual battles) is close to meeting their carbon reductions, but rather than just throw in the towel and think we are done for, I think it is worth staying positive and believing that there is a chance we can halt our carbon emissions, but we have to vote.

These elections right now are critical to ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone so if you care about the environment, the outdoors and preserving nature and this planet for generations to come, you need to get out and make ourselves heard.

If you are not sure where to start, here are a number of resources that can help you find your representatives positions on things the environment, the outdoor industry and land use.

You can also do deeper research on your representatives positions around things like carbon taxes, renewable subsidies, land use policy and relationships with foreign oil-producing nations. This is a midterm election we are coming up on and it can be even more important to pay attention to these local elections because it will come down to your governor, representatives and your local municipality that controls where the power comes from, how to handle transportation and waste, etc.

Don’t let climate change and the environment overwhelm and paralyze you, find out where your officials stand on the issues and vote accordingly. There are candidates on both sides of the table that support climate, the environment and the great outdoors. They just need your support.


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