CC BY 2.0 Drew Stephens
It’s a brave new world out there, but we don’t have to go quietly into 1984.
Regardless of your political affiliation or who you may have voted for in the 2016 US presidential election, if you’re an advocate of science, environmental protections, and clean energy, you may be feeling a little despondent right now with all of the gloomy news coming out of DC from the new administration. Climate science is getting the proverbial shaft, public lands may soon become profit centers for private fossil fuel enterprises, clean air and water regulations may effectively be reversed, funding for essential healthcare services may be getting the ax, and that’s just in the first week alone.
Now that the Trump administration’s nominees are being sworn in, or are in the process of taking office, it’s easy to start feeling like anything we do now will be too little, too late, even with the massive turnout for the recent Women’s March and the strong push-back we’re seeing right now from journalists, news organizations, and environmental groups.
However, don’t despair, because there’s still a lot we can do to make our voices heard, but it will require a lot more from us than simply upping our clicktivism and tweeting about the issues (although those can certainly be part of our efforts). It’s going to require us to be a lot more engaged in the political process than ever before, and we can’t just wait until the mid-term elections (or heaven forbid, the next presidential election), to cast our votes, figuratively speaking.
It’s going to mean calling our senators and representatives, organizing for collective action, and learning the ways of government, and it’s probably going to feel like we’re swimming uphill backwards. But fortunately, a whole new crop of guides, web platforms, activist groups, and apps have surfaced, built by people who really know their stuff, all of which can be brought to bear for the sake of environmental justice, climate action, health, and civil rights.
Here are a few resources to start flexing your activist muscles:
Countable is both a website and an iOS and Android app (all free) that aims to make it quick and easy to understand which laws and issues Congress is considering. It also streamlines the process of contacting your own senators and representative, enabling you to easily tell them how you want them to vote on bills that are under consideration, and even record a video comment for them. It offers non-partisan summaries of the bills, with both pros and cons, and then allows you to follow up afterward to see how your representatives voted, which helps us keep them accountable the next time they run for re-election. Select the issues you’re most interested in following and voting on, and check in on the web or via the app to vote on upcoming bills in those issue areas, and to share the issues via social media.
IssueVoter is a web platform that’s described as “politics for busy people,” and it has a similar function as Countable, except it’s just for representatives, not senators. Sign up, select the issues you care about, and get email alerts about upcoming bills, including a summary, the pros and cons of the bills, and related news. The platform then tracks your rep’s votes, and informs you as to how that stacks up against your own votes, again allowing us, the constituents, to hold them accountable for their votes. A sharing function encourages users to help inform their social networks about the bills, and about the actions of their representatives as well.
The Indivisible Guide, while being decidedly partisan in its approach (the subtitle is “A practical guide to resisting the Trump agenda”), is applicable no matter which party or political persuasion you lean toward. The Guide is essentially a ‘best practices’ for community and grassroots organizing in order to get members of Congress to listen to their constituents. It was written by former congressional staffers, based on their experiences, and released originally as a Google document, but now has its own website for reading the document online or downloading it (in both English and Spanish). The guide draws a lot on the tactics used by Tea Party activists to “beat back President Obama’s agenda,” and offers “a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations” who wish to replicate those successes.
10 Actions / 100 Days
Out of the wildly successful Women’s March comes a new campaign, 10 Actions for the first 100 Days, which seeks to build on and amplify the voices brought forth the day after the new administration took office. Driven by the website and an email notification system, the campaign aims to garner collective action every ten days on the same, or similar, issues that lead to the initial gatherings on January 21st.
100 Days of Resistance
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor and currently the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at US Berkeley, offers an agenda for what he calls 100 Days of Resistance, some of which is general advice (write letters, boycott, etc.) and some of which is specific (call your senators and representatives).
Tune in to Indivisible Radio four nights a week to listen or call in about the issues, brought to you by WNYC. (Not affiliated with the Indivisible Guide.)
“Indivisible is public radio’s national show about America in a time of change. For the first 100 days of the new presidential administration, stations around the country are joining to bring you four nights a week of live, participatory conversation. Each night has its own host. Each night has its own theme. The common thread is your participation.”
These are by no means the only tools in the activist shed, but they may serve as a great starting place to get you flexing your activist and citizen muscles.
To be honest, other than being a petition-signing son of a gun, a donor to eco-causes and human rights organizations, and an environmental writer and social media activist, up until this last election I haven’t spent that much time or energy exploring the waters of political activism on a personal level. And I certainly have never phoned my senators and representative until this past week, when I added their numbers to my contact list and made calls to them expressing my opinion on specific issues. I’ve always sent form emails, and signed petitions, and taken action when it was easy, but now I’ve got a new perspective, with an eye toward what works in the political arena. I hope you’ll join me, because it’s not enough to simply let environmental groups do the heavy lifting anymore. Our elected officials need to hear from us, repeatedly, about the issues and current events that concern us.