Of the 13 questions Rep. Jason Chaffetz fielded before cutting a recent town hall meeting short, three dealt with public lands.
[ Seeing taxpayer dollars go up in smoke on Pawnee National Grassland shows me why we need BLM’s wasted gas rule ]
Last spring, we went to Pawnee National Grassland, public lands east of Fort Collins, Colo.
[ New Mexico lawmakers come to their senses on bill that would have undermined federally managed mineral leasing ]
New Mexico’s public lands got a reprieve today when the sponsor of a bill that would have opened the door to privatizing our public lands and resources withdrew the legislation due to overwhelming public opposition.
Beyond Voting: How to Be a Super Citizen
“There are no passengers on spaceship Earth. We are all crew.” —Marshall McLuhan
McLuhan’s quote about the responsibility we all have as “crewmembers” of spaceship Earth could just as easily apply to our need to stay politically engaged in a democracy. When the health of our planet and communities is at stake, we can’t stay on the sidelines.
There are lots of ways to be an active citizen: voting, volunteering, starting or joining an advocacy organization, raising money for a cause you care about, protesting, writing letters to the newspaper, calling or visiting your representatives, attending a community or government meeting, running for office… the list goes on.
“But where do I start?” you might ask.
First, ask yourself what skills and resources you have to offer. Are you a social butterfly? Perhaps you’d like to canvas or phonebank for a cause. Are you good with computers? Maybe you could train others or help set up a database for an organization that needs one.
Secondly, ask yourself what you care about. Below we’ve assembled some handy guides from EarthShare member organizations and others on environmental issues that could use an active citizen like you. Just click on the guides that match your interests to get started!
I care about…
…Stopping Plastic Pollution
The Rise Above Plastics Activist Toolkit is a step by step guide to creating positive change in your community through reducing single-use plastics. It will help you establish a plastic bag ban or similar ordinance and it also offers insight on increasing awareness of plastic pollution issues through education and outreach. (Surfrider Foundation)
Citizens’ Climate Education gives ordinary citizens the power to educate political leaders, the media, and the general public about climate change solutions. Find all their videos here. You could get trained to deliver community presentations by the Climate Reality Project, or join or start a local chapter of the Sierra Club, Citizens Climate Lobby, or 350.org. Ella Baker Center for Human Rights also has a guide to developing a climate action plan in your town.
…Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture
Whether it’s food waste, community gardens, or fighting hunger that floats your boat, there are no shortage of ways to get involved in building a better food and farming system where you live.
…Making My Community More Liveable and Safe for Pedestrians
This “Transportation Toolkit,” is “a plain-language citizen’s guide to the government’s process for major infrastructure undertakings, and how to get involved. Along with approachable graphics and flowcharts, the kit goes over the basic timelines that road, rail, bridge, and aviation projects usually follow, crucial concepts, entities, and laws that inform those processes, and the best strategies to make citizen voices heard. Think of this as everything you wanted to know about transportation planning, but were afraid to ask.” (USDOT / CityLab)
… Wait, Do I Really Have to Pick Just One Issue?
Have you considered running for office? Lots of organizations want to support people like you who care about their communities and the environment. Here’s a general guide to becoming a political leader, or you can check out these guides that specifically address women candidates (She Should Run), immigrants (New American Leaders Project), veterans (New Politics), millennials (Run for Something), LGBTQ candidates (Victory Institute), and scientists and STEM leaders (314 Action), among others.
If running for office isn’t your thing, check out these tips for general engagement from Oregon Environmental Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, Everyday Democracy, and the NAACP. They offer clear steps for getting involved in the political process, no matter the issue you care about.
Top 25 Environmental News Sources
Our media landscape is in uncharted territory. Political divisiveness mixed with insular social networks and deceptive websites have led many people to distrust the media completely.
There are, however, many sources and writers doing fact-based, top-notch reporting. When it comes to environmental and science news, these outlets are doing the best work. Read, subscribe, and share to support the journalists upholding a free press.
These websites pull in stories from all over the world, providing a comprehensive overview of the environmental news of the day from a variety of perspectives and outlets:
The Old Guard
These news outlets have been around for decades and hold themselves to high standards of integrity and quality. Many local newspapers like The Baltimore Sun, The Oregonian, The Columbus Dispatch, and The Miami Herald have also been recognized for excellent reporting by the Society of Environmental Journalists and often have an intimacy with the subject matter and place that larger publications may lack.
The Policy Wonks
Want to know who’s voting for and against environmental protections in Congress? How about a play-by-play on legislation and executive actions on conservation, energy, and climate change? These outlets will give you the scoop:
The Audio Lovers
Prefer to get your news through earbuds instead of newsprint or computer screens? These podcasts and radio programs are your best bet:
The Science Buffs
Want to learn more about the science behind environmental challenges? Check out these sites:
The Nonprofit Upstarts
Newbie, web-based nonprofit news outlets often produce long-form, investigative stories ignored by more fast-paced television networks, for instance. Issues specific to particular regions and states are also covered:
High Country News
Midwest Energy News
These EarthShare members have teams of writers who cover environmental issues from an advocacy and activist perspective:
Getting Congress to Care with Carol Werner
It’s been only weeks since a new Congress took power, and many important environmental laws that protect our clean air, water, and climate are already being attacked. Carol Werner, Executive Director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) works to build Congressional support for environmental protection, and shared with us her analysis of the situation, and advice on what citizens can do to make a difference.
You’ve spent many years on Capitol Hill. What’s the mood up there these days?
There is enormous concern at how fast things are happening since the election, particularly in regard to cabinet appointees and Executive Orders. There’s been a push for Congressional confirmation hearings without full ethics checks and financial “conflicts of interest” considerations of these nominees. The background and qualifications of many of these nominees brings into question what the administration is trying to accomplish. Many have called for the dissolution or weakening of the very agencies they’re tapped to lead.
Many environmental groups are on the defensive right now – worried about rollbacks to important initiatives like the Clean Power Plan. How should they balance offense and defense in the years ahead?
It’s very important that we defend policies we already have, because they’re the basis for future policy. With regard to the Clean Power Plan, we should feel good that it has already achieved many of its goals. We are seeing definite positive change in the power sector, and I don’t think they can put the genie back in the bottle.
What legislation or issues should constituents be paying special attention to right now?
They should watch what’s happening with the budget and appropriations process. We’re very concerned whether there will be adequate support for environmental programs within our federal agencies. This will impact scientific research, conservation, parks, efficiency, renewable energy, and much more.
A Member of Congress, in a meeting with an EESI board member, asked why do we need NASA and NOAA when we have the Weather Channel. But, of course, the Weather Channel could not exist without the data, research, satellites, etc. that those agencies provide. We must continue to research our changing planet, from snowpack and global temperature to flooding and drought. Their research helps us figure out how to solve big problems.
Not many people understand how the appropriations process works. How can people learn and get involved?
First, get to know the staff in your member of Congress’ office, build a relationship, ask questions, and let them hear from you! Second, support and follow the organizations and journalists who are watching these issues. These include groups like EESI, Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Citizen, and news outlets like the Washington Post, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, and the New York Times.
Reporters are eager to hear from you on the importance of covering environmental policy. We all have a role in asking questions and encouraging coverage in the media.
What else do you wish people knew about Congress?
People should know that they don’t have to go to DC to make a difference. Meetings in district offices are very important and Members of Congress pay attention to the local press and constituents’ opinions. You can tell staffers why renewable energy is important to you, or ask them to co-sponsor bills that protect the environment. We can’t expect policymakers to do the right thing if they’re not feeling pressure from people in their states and districts.
I’ve never seen such a big national reaction to some of these questions and concerns as I’ve seen in the past few weeks. I hope that the many people protesting continue being engaged. It’s so critical that we remain vigilant and develop environmental champions.
EESI is bipartisan. How does an organization like yours commit to this vision in an environment that’s so partisan?
Congress has become much too partisan, but there are Republicans who care about environmental issues, particularly in some of the caucuses that focus on clean energy and climate. We will continue to provide legislators on both sides of the aisle with facts through our many briefings and fact sheets on everything from production tax credits for renewable energy to the jobs benefits of addressing climate change.
What do you like most about this job?
There is always so much to learn, and it’s exciting to see so many people doing good work in this field. I tell our staff that it’s important to see how things are interrelated. We should be able to address multiple problems when we examine them holistically like this. And that makes everything interesting and fun.
Today, the House passed a resolution using the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s “Planning 2.0.”
Rep. Chaffetz’s bill (H.R. 622) would completely eliminate law enforcement officers from the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, making it even harder for the chronically underfunded agencies to manage and protect the land.