How can we get people voting green?
OK, can we agree? Tom Friedman should never write about anything else but green. As daft as he is on some other subjects, every time he writes about green he hits all the right notes.
To wit: "It is so much more important to change your leaders than change your light bulbs."
Now, you might want to add, it’s important not just to elect good leaders but to pressure them once they’re in office. To do that you need an active, organized grassroots movement, preferably supported by public opinion. You can change public opinion by modeling green behavior and you can create an organized grassroots movement by helping to organize one. So there’s plenty you can do other than campaign and vote. But it is nonetheless vital to get the people running sh*t — everything from neighborhood councils to cities to countries and international coalitions — on board. We need to elect people who get it.
It’s well-known that voters broadly support green goals, and are even willing to pay a little extra for them sometimes. Support is woefully shallow, though; for only a tiny minority of voters is green the top voting issue. One of the most important things greens can do is raise it to the top of the priority list.
How to do that?
I’m convinced that telling people the world is going to hell will never do the job. Why are healthcare and "the economy" always top issues? Because voters face those issues — if they haven’t run into health or economic problems, their families have, or their friends, or other people in their concentric circles of care. They sense immediate dangers and opportunities around those issues. At least in the U.S., nobody faces climate change, at least perceived as such. You want to get voters to really care about green, in a votes-on-it way, you need to show them two things:
- How climate change will take something from them, their families, or people they know.
- How "going green" can offer something to them, their families, or people they know.
Both these are useful, but as I keep kvetching, we could use a hell of a lot more of the latter.
That’s why Friedman’s story about NYC’s cabs is well-chosen: Millions of people are directly familiar with those cabs, and like magic, they just got greener, with both economic and environmental benefits and, crucially, no reduction in service. No sacrifice. This might give people the idea that, hey, maybe there are other win-wins out there, ways to make both kinds of green at once … and if there are … hell, I want to find one. Then lots of people start looking.
Once they start looking, opportunities will pop up all over the place. As Amory Lovins says, "the low-hanging fruit is still mooshing up around our ankles but the tree keeps growing more fruit and dropping it on our heads." Get people in the habit of picking it up and you’ll stop hearing arguments about whether we "have to" go green. You’ll stop hearing partisan arguments about the cost of addressing climate change.
You’ll get people voting green, not instead of voting on healthcare and the economy, but precisely by voting on healthcare and the economy. After all: green is healthier and more profitable.