A green Georgia on our minds

San Franciscans can mobilize to help elect Democrats Warnock, Ossoff to Senate


San Francisco may have our hearts, but Georgia has our minds. With two seats open, control of the Senate hinges on the state’s January runoffs. And because most Republicans don’t seem to give a hoot about climate change, the environment would certainly benefit from a win by Democrat candidates, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock.

“Flipping the Senate to a pro-climate-action majority is critical,” Eliza Nemser, a San Franciscan and founder of Climate Changemakers, an action-oriented community of concerned citizens from across the political spectrum, told me. “If you’re worried about the future of the planet, there’s no better strategy than doubling down in Georgia.”

On Monday, Nemser was one of thousands who attended a virtual event with Rev. Warnock and Ossoff hosted by Manny Yekutiel of Manny’s in the Mission. The candidates used the opportunity to introduce themselves and encourage listeners to sign up to volunteer through their websites, warnockforgeorgia.com and electjon.com. Yekutiel also announced a fundraiser with special guest Stacey Abrams on Nov. 17, 2020.

It’s always helpful to phone bank and donate. But San Franciscans who think federal legislators need to put people before polluting corporations should consider doing more. Mobilizing for Ossoff and Rev. Warnock isn’t only about turning Georgia blue. The environmental movement needs to push the country green again.

Public health and the planet used to have bipartisan support. Republican President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed comprehensive laws to control air pollution, safeguard public drinking water and protect species and their habitats. As governor, Republican Ronald Reagan signed the California Environmental Quality Act into law, which (for better or worse) requires local governments and state agencies to consider the effect of development and implement mitigation measures.

This is not to say that Reagan was an environmental hero. As president, he rolled back protections and famously removed the solar panels President Jimmy Carter installed on the White House.

But Nixon and Reagan recognized that appealing to voters who cared about clean air, clean water and a livable planet was beneficial to their political careers — at least, at some point.

Today, climate change is increasingly impacting Americans. Maia Piccagli has seen her kids’ lives turned upside down by historic wildfire smoke in San Francisco — canceled soccer games and weeks spent sheltering inside. This isn’t the life she remembers when she was growing up in the Bay Area, and it’s not the future she wants for her children.

A concern for the planet helped motivate Piccagli, and a record turnout of voters across the country, to oust Donald Trump from office. Now, Georgia needs the same groundswell. Both Republicans and Democrats must view environmental stewardship as a prerequisite for holding political office in this country.

“We want to maintain a livable planet for our kids,” Piccagli told me. “Without Ossoff and Rev. Warnock winning, there’s no way. If they win there’s still a chance.”

The runoffs in Georgia will likely be close. Mobilizing turnout is key. In addition to volunteering with the Democrat candidates’ campaigns, San Franciscans should personally reach out to folks in Georgia and encourage them to vote green.

Georgians also have until Dec. 7, 2020 to register for the January runoffs. During the event at Manny’s, Ossoff said that more than 23,000 young people in Georgia are eligible to vote in the runoff who were not eligible to vote in the presidential election. Supporting organizations, such as New Georgia Project, can help with voter registration and turnout.

There’s much that hinges on the Georgia Senate runoffs. But this shouldn’t be the case. All politicians, regardless of political party, should care about the health and wellbeing of our country. Only a massive movement for Ossoff and Rev. Warnock will remind the Republican party of this basic tenant.

As Rev. Warnock said on Monday, “The battle is located in Georgia, but it’s the future of the nation that’s at stake.”

Yes, and it’s also the future of the planet.

Robyn Purchia is an environmental attorney, environmental blogger and environmental activist who hikes, gardens and tree hugs in her spare time. She is a guest opinion columnist and her point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner. Check her out at robynpurchia.com.

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