Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues
I do pretty well living in the moment and staying focused on tasks at hand, but I enjoy being strategic, and that means having a forward-looking orientation. This is a time of year when everyone talks about the swift passage of time as our short summers begin to transition to autumn. I fully appreciate the imminent arrival of the holiday season and, with it, the turning of our calendars to 2020.
Between now and then, our state legislators will reconvene for a final six-week push before this legislative session ends. This will be another chance for our state’s elected officials to do the business of the people and to do what is needed for our environment and climate.
With the arrival of a new season comes new priorities. PennFuture will be working to shape important proposals to preserve our nuclear fleet as a hedge against climate pollution, and there has been talk about fees on carbon pollution that we are keenly interested in. Will our legislature find a path forward to help pay for the myriad of voluntary measures encompassed in the Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan for the Chesapeake Bay, which can result in dramatic improvements in our local streams and rivers? This can only happen if our legislators grasp the dire need for dedicated funding for clean water and find a revenue source for it.
We typically see a flurry of legislation at the end of the session. The need for action in Harrisburg this fall and this session feels particularly important. I’m concerned that once we cross into 2020, all attention will turn to the national election. Activists, advocates, politicians, donors, voters – appropriately – will be laser focused on the outcomes in early primary states, the nominating conventions, campaigns and the election for the next president.
When PennFuture formed its strategic alliance with Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, it created capacity for PennFuture to launch a civic engagement program. This program is marked by our on-the-ground community organizing; growing our ACE (Advocates for Conservation and Education) teams that play a role in educating their elected officials on important issues; and elevating non-partisan campaign conversations about environmental issues among all candidates for public office. You might recall hearing about our Common Agenda for Conservation during the last gubernatorial campaign.
As a 501 (c) (3) organization, PennFuture is strictly prohibited from engaging in political activity, endorsements and elections. However, the IRS does grant latitude in the role we can play in reaching a segment of the population known as the New American Majority, also referred to as the Rising American Electorate. This segment is defined by individuals of color, single women and millennials. The IRS allows us to do non-partisan voter registration in places where these demographics are prevalent, but where there are substantial gaps in their voting registrations. PennFuture hopes to begin voter registration work in early 2020. We also hope to do “Get Out the Vote” work closer to the 2020 general election.
Many of the national environmental groups are focusing on Pennsylvania in 2020, and it’s no surprise that others of all stripes will be politically engaged here.
The other momentous event upcoming in 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22. Commemorations of Earth Day 1970 cannot be nostalgic events. We must show up, speak up and unequivocally and unapologetically acknowledge the vicious attacks on our environment, communities and public health that have taken place in recent years, and use this Earth Day to create change.
On Earth Day, we must make welcome all and elevate the energy of our climate youth, their families and the front line communities confronted still with the realities of pollution and a dystopian climate future if we do not act and create change in 2020. PennFuture hopes to provide many opportunities for you to join us for Earth Day 2020 action in the coming months.
Regardless, work remains to close out 2019, and we’ll be sure to keep fighting for our shared environment in Harrisburg and all across Pennsylvania.