Written by Rose Marcario, President and CEO of Patagonia.
Three out of four young Americans believe climate change is a threat and want action. But just 25 percent of our young citizens ages 18-30 voted in the 2014 midterm elections. Those numbers threaten to drop even lower in 2016 as people are turned off by ugly rhetoric and behavior. It’s hard to blame them.
But consider the plight of our dying planet. Over 100 million Americans live where the air is often too polluted to breathe safely; over half our streams and rivers are so polluted they are not safe for drinking, swimming or fishing. Last year was the hottest since records began in 1850 and extreme weather–snow, drought, floods–is the new norm. Climate and weather disasters in 2012 cost the American economy more than $100 billion.
None of this will improve if we sit on the sidelines in this election. In fact, we must participate by getting educated and standing up for our planet.
Unfortunately, it’s harder than ever to know where candidates stand. Through three Presidential debates we’ve heard exactly zero questions about climate change. Climate change is the most fundamental threat we face, according to the U.S. Department of Defense and 97 percent of scientists. The topic is equally absent in federal, state and local races across the country.
Patagonia recently launched Vote Our Planet–our campaign urging Americans to vote up and down the ballot to elect officials and support policies to protect our planet’s air, water and soil and defend the health and well-being of our families and communities. Patagonia has been urging people to vote with the health of the planet in mind for over a decade, but this year the stakes are higher than ever.
We must choose to vote purposefully for candidates–up and down the ballot–who support clean water, clean air, strong climate action and a courageous shift to renewable energy. We must support candidates who will work on our behalf to save this planet from becoming too hot for human survival. If we don’t act, then someone else will – someone who doesn’t care about a future for our children and other wild things.
Most young voters feel disenfranchised and disillusioned by politics–but if they voted in full force, the politicians would have to take their issues seriously. Whether the media covers them or not, the politicians we elect to public office go to work once the campaigns end. From local school boards to our municipal leaders to our state legislatures to, yes, Congress and the White House, these politicians make decisions that affect our lives.
Election Day is November 8th. I urge you to check out Vote Our Planet today and use the resources we’ve provided to walk into the voting booth tomorrow with the planet at the top of your mind. Change happens through action and voting is direct action. In this election, vote for candidates up and down the ballot who will protect our planet.