WGBH: Boston Public Radio

Climate activists, including members of Extinction Rebellion, participate in a demonstration in front of the Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse against a recent Supreme Court ruling on June 30, 2022 in New York City.
Source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The recent Supreme Court decision limiting the EPA’s ability to control emissions will shift the burden to enact environmental policy change onto legislators. But getting environmentalists to vote for policymakers who will care about climate change could be a bigger hurdle than it might appear.

On Boston Public Radio, Nathaniel Stinnett, founder of the Boston-based Environmental Voter Project, discussed the Supreme Court decision, and the role his organization plays in getting non-voting environmentalists to change their ways.

“When we think of people who care deeply about the environment, we often assume that they’re people who vote all the time, like people who care about guns or reproductive rights or other issues, but they don’t,” Stinnett said.

Stinnett explained that for years, the fossil fuel industry has been blaming climate issues on individual decisions, like using single-use plastic, driving less or not recycling, rather than acknowledging the role that policy can play in mitigating the issue.

“For generations, we have viewed environmental activism as being inherently apolitical,” Stinnett said. “It was a very specific, almost generations-long PR campaign by the fossil fuel industry, and it made us feel guilty, as though these systemic problems were our personal faults.”

The Environmental Voter Project hopes to change this perception. The project’s mission is to identify non-voting environmentalists, and canvas them accordingly to transform them into habitual voters.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision, Stinnett said, proves that everything, including environmentalism, is political. The problem, he explained, is that the climate movement doesn’t have the power to move politicians the way other movements do.

“Whether you’re the Supreme Court, whether you’re Congress, whether you’re the President, or whether you are an anonymous policymaker, everything is politics, everything is about whether you have the political power to force policymakers to enact the law that you want,” he said.

In the face of the recent Supreme Court decision, Stinnett said that environmentalists getting out the vote can be the most effective way to gain more of that power.

“It’s our job to show up, and force these politicians to lead, not because out of the goodness of their heart they want to help the climate, we need to force them to do this because it’s good politics,” he said.

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