January 2022 Newsletter
In this Issue
  • The Assault on Democracy is an Assault on Climate
  • Save the Date!
  • Local Climate Volunteers Make a Big Impact
  • ECA Mass Legislative Team Report
  • It's Not Too Late to Build Back Better
  • Videos of Recent ECA Meetings
  • What We're Reading: The Nutmeg's Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis by Amitav Ghosh
The Assault on Democracy is an Assault on Climate
There's a reason the fossil fuel industry
doesn't want the people to decide
Paul Dryfoos (ECA Mass Leadership Team, Elders for Sound Democracy Steering Team)

There is a crisis unfolding before our eyes. Our democracy is under attack. There is a surge of extremist legislation in critical states like Arizona, Texas, Iowa, Georgia and Florida, designed to interfere with the right to vote and access to the ballot, sabotaging the very basis for fair elections. Partisan legislatures are changing the rules so they can interfere with election administration and throw out legitimate election results to pick the winners they prefer.
 
The fossil fuel industry supports these policies that curtail voting rights for the simple reason that climate action is very popular. Recent polling indicates 70% of Americans are worried about climate change and more than 60% support ambitious climate and clean energy legislation.
 
This surge in election sabotage threatens America’s progress toward a more inclusive democracy at a time when climate change and many other challenges are reaching critical tipping points. The saboteurs suppressing fair elections are disempowering demographic groups - including Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asians and young people - who overwhelmingly support government action on climate change and environmental protection.
 
How can we respond?

Elders Climate Action and its parent organization Elders Action Network are taking the threat seriously. We are organizing on many fronts to promote voter turnout in key states among under-represented groups like people of color and younger adults. Here’s what we are doing and how you can help:
 
●   We are advocating for federal voting rights legislation to establish reasonable standards for state policies on voting access, redistricting, transparency of election finance, and fair election administration. These important bills - the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act - will come up for a vote in the next several weeks. Passage will require a finesse of the filibuster rules. Please send a letter of support to your senators and congress person.
●     We are forming state voting rights protection teams in several critical states, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Iowa. How to participate: Send an email to sound-democracy@eldersaction.org. We will help you to get plugged into a voter outreach team.
 
The climate hangs in the balance. Elders Climate Action joins with hundreds of other concerned organizations to empower voters, support federal policies that move our country away from the brink of civic and environmental disaster, and push back on any attempted coup or other anti-democratic threat.
Local Climate Volunteers Make a Big Impact
A LOCAL COMMUNITY and ECA MASSACHUSETTS
Two-Way Street for Climate Solutions
Arnie Epstein, ECA Mass Leadership & Research Teams
The small rural town of Stow, Massachusetts has a proud history of environmental action. Back in 2010, the volunteer group Sustainable Stow was formed by town residents who were destined to become active members of ECA Mass.
 
Arnie Epstein, Sharon Brownfield, Rick Lent and Allan Fierce were among the founding members of Sustainable Stow, and with other town volunteers succeeded in moving the ball forward.
●    The Stow Solar Challenge was among the most successful solar initiatives in the state.
●    Stow was one of the first communities in the state, served by a municipal light plant, to be designated a Green Community.
●    Sustainable Stow teamed up with the neighboring town of Hudson and was selected by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to participate in their HeatSmart initiative - bringing heat pumps to more than 60 homeowners.
 
In 2015, the early days of the ECA Mass chapter, Rick joined the chapter and soon recruited other members from Sustainable Stow. As veterans of community action, we already had some knowledge of how to get things done - but we were naive about state politics and legislation. 
 
Over the next several years, we gradually learned the ropes and educated ourselves on how to advocate for state legislation. During the last legislative session, ECA Mass focused on the “2050 Roadmap” bill sponsored by Rep. Meschino. The Roadmap bill ultimately passed as the landmark Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy - signed by the governor last March. We couldn’t have been prouder when Rep. Meschino told us the bill wouldn’t have happened without the steadfast support of ECA Mass.
 
Now it was time to bring the work we did with ECA Mass back to our local community. With the new climate law in hand, we told the town government and residents that Stow needed to do its part to help the state legislation succeed. The town took notice and established a formal town committee, the Stow Green Advisory Committee, with the charter of developing a town Climate Action Plan. We have the support of other town boards and committees, and outreach to Stow residents is rapidly gaining traction and momentum. 
 
The town now works with local developers to show them why it is in their interest to build only energy efficient all-electric housing in Stow. We are working towards a town-wide climate resolution at our next town meeting. And we are moving forward with the town’s Climate Action Plan.
 
What started out as a group of local volunteers became a force in state climate legislation through ECA Mass, and is now able to make an even greater impact in our own community.
ECA Mass Legislative Team Report
All of our priority bills except the Energy Siting Bill have received a hearing by a joint committee with inspiring testimony from ECA Mass Legislative Team members, bill managers and our collaborators in other climate organizations. (The TUE hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, January 11, at 11 am.) Thanks to all who have testified!
 
Committees are continuing the process of making a critical decision on our bills: report out favorably or “ought not to pass.” Some bills will be sent to “study,” effectively killing them for this session. Other bills will receive an extended deadline for reporting that may mean they also die in committee. We expect to hear about some of our bills early in February.
 
The Legislative Team, in collaboration with Zero Emission Vehicle, Offshore Wind, Green Future and Forest coalitions, is aiming advocacy in January at three joint committees: Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE), Environment and Natural Resources (ENRA), and Transportation.
 
A major focus is on several bills related to decarbonizing residential and commercial buildings. We anticipate that TUE will consider advancing only one buildings bill, which may include elements from all related bills. We will be advocating for key elements that we believe must be included in a buildings bill.
 
We will be asking ECA Mass members who are constituents of committee chairs, cochairs and members to reach out to their reps and senators by email, phone or virtual meetings to promote our agenda.
 
We will also ask ECA Mass members to begin contacting legislators not on committees as well. All legislators will be critical targets when it comes to passing those bills that are reported favorably out of committees.
 
Look out for emails coming your way to request your assistance in these efforts. This is a critical time to push for the legislation we need to get Massachusetts on track to reach the goal of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
It's Not Too Late to BUILD BACK BETTER
Seth Evans, ECA Mass Leadership Team

Will the federal government succeed in passing major climate legislation in 2022? Senate leaders vow to continue pushing for the Build Back Better (BBB) bill, already passed in the House, which includes a potentially game-changing $550 billion in climate-related spending. But most of the important cards in the deck still belong to two conservative Democrats – Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. If the bill is to pass this year, Democrats would need to make hard choices in the coming weeks about whether to scrap some policy priorities – such as the child tax credit, paid family leave, child-care subsidies, or Medicare expansion – to ensure others pass. Whether the climate provisions remain intact depends primarily on Manchin, who has a personal financial interest in the coal industry and who already eliminated the clean energy standard from the original bill. 

Senator Markey has stated, “We must get this done. While the best time to act on climate was decades ago, the next best time is now.” If BBB flounders in the Senate, President Biden's ambitious emissions reduction goals will depend largely on Environmental Protection Agency regulations and executive action – especially if the Democrats don’t hold onto majority control of both houses of Congress after the 2022 midterm elections.

Please stay tuned for more information about what we climate activists can do to get some version of BBB, with strong climate provisions intact, through Congress!
Videos of Recent ECA Meetings
Did you miss December's ECA Mass meetings or want to see the presentations again? Here are links:

The highlight was a demo by members of our ECA Mass Leadership Team, who role-played constituents meeting with their legislator to advocate for one of our priority climate bills.

Deep Dialogue - The Role of Massachusetts Public Forests in Addressing the Climate Emergency This eye-opening presentation by Glen Ayers, ECA Mass Legislative Team member and Forest Bill Manager, is essential viewing for everyone who cares about forests and climate.

You can find more videos from past ECA meetings at https://ecamass.org/eca-mass-meeting-videos/
What We're Reading
The Nutmeg's Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis
By Amitav Ghosh (University of Chicago Press, 2021)
There are powerful lessons in Amitav Ghosh’s “The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis.” To successfully address the crises that we face, we’d do well to listen.

Ghosh opens by recounting the story of the Dutch conquest of the Bandanese people in Indonesia in the 1620s. The Dutch wanted control of the lucrative nutmeg resource, but the attack aimed to exterminate the indigenous people, their culture and spirit. Ghosh recounts countless other examples of colonialism and genocide.

Nor are indigenous people the only targets. Natural healthy landscapes are terraformed according to Ghosh “in much the same way that the Banda Islands came to be seen by their conquerors: this is the frame of world-as-resource, in which landscapes come to be regarded as factories and ‘Nature’ is seen as subdued and cheap.”

Fast forward to the present. Today, our Pentagon is not only the largest single consumer of energy in the U.S., and perhaps in the world, but, as Ghosh points out, exists to protect the drivers of climate change: the carbon economy and systems of extraction, production, and the consumption they support. The Union of Concerned Scientists warned us in 1992 that humanity faced a stark choice between spending its resources on war and violence or on preventing catastrophic environmental damage. Are we again so blinded by our pursuit of resources and power that we ignore the vital relationship with our life support system?

There are voices today that are calling not just for technological fixes, but new ways of thinking. In her compelling review, author Naomi Klein states, “Ghosh challenges readers to reckon with war, empire, and genocide in order to fully grasp the world devouring logics that underpin ecological collapse.”

Our fate as a human species may be more intertwined with the rest of nature than we acknowledge. What would it mean to view the preservation of the natural world as indispensable to our future? And could respect for indigenous knowledge provide wisdom from those who have lived more closely with the Earth?

-- Margie Lee
This Newsletter is Published for Members and Friends of the
Elders Climate Action - Massachusetts Chapter
ECA Massachusetts is a chapter of the national Elders Climate Action. We are a movement of elders committed to making our voices heard... to change our nation's policies while there is still time to avoid catastrophic changes in the Earth's climate. Visit the ECA Massachusetts website, event calendar, and Facebook page to learn more about our chapter's activities and climate news. JOIN ECA MASSACHUSETTS AND STAY CONNECTED! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, and for more active participation, sign up to receive Action Alerts and meeting announcements. Fill out our subscription form.