June 2021 Newsletter
Our Democracy is Hanging by a Thread
Why Elders Must Act Now
By Paul Dryfoos
ECA Mass Leadership Team Member and
Co-Leader, Elders for Sound Democracy

The Problem
The 2020 U.S. election was a test of the fundamental American values that everyone eligible to vote should be able to do so easily, that all votes be fairly counted, and that the election be decided without partisan interference. Despite the raging pandemic and toxically partisan political climate, election officials across the nation - Republican, Democrat and Independent alike - did their jobs and ran a clean election. More than 60 lawsuits aimed at overturning certified election results were failures, only confirming the integrity of these election officials’ work.

Why this matters for climate change
Because we succeeded in having a fair election in 2020, we now have a government committed to combating climate change, economic injustice and racism. This could all be taken away if we are not able to protect fair elections in the upcoming 2022 and 2024 election cycles.
The Civic Heroes who saved us in 2020
Some of these officials, like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a life-long Republican, incurred a great deal of abuse, including death threats and being branded an "enemy of the people" by then-president Trump. Nevertheless, Brad never capitulated to pressure to illegally change the vote count. Similar stories could be told of thousands of election professionals across the nation. The good news out of this is that ethical behavior and professionalism is the norm among those with the direct responsibility for administering elections.
The Growing Threat
However, there is some very bad news on the horizon. Republican-controlled legislatures in many key states are enacting laws that would allow the legislature to override the work of the election professionals. Some of these laws would empower the legislature to simply reject the certified results of an election and replace it with an arbitrary and partisan result. As of May 14, 2021, at least 14 states had enacted new laws restricting voting and undermining the authority of state election officials, and dozens more are in the pipeline (source: NYU Brennan Center).
This is fundamentally un-American and unfair, and we all must work together to protect our fragile democracy. Whatever our color, background or zip code, most of us believe that the freedom to vote in a fair election is a fundamental American value.

Please continue reading (below Save the Date!) to learn about specific actions elders can take to push back on threats to our democracy.
In this Issue
  • Save the Date!
  • Our Democracy is Hanging by a Thread - What Elders Must Do
  • The Green Future Act - An ECA Mass Legislative Priority
  • Use Native Plants to Support a Better Environment
  • What We're Reading - For the Time Being by Annie Dillard

Our Democracy is Hanging by a Thread
What Elders Must Do
(Continued from editorial above by Paul Dryfoos)

In light of the threats to our freedom to have fair elections without partisan interference, we must respond strongly, and we must respond now. The very survival of our democracy is in question.
What we can’t do is sit on the sidelines and hope that things work out. According to George Lakey, an expert on popular democracy, political power grabs can often be stopped by massive public pushback and resistance. We saw that in 2020 - despite the pandemic and deliberate attempts to suppress voting, we had the highest voter turnout in history and a largely fair election. Post-election attempts to overturn the certified results were thwarted by a combination of public outcry, the integrity of election officials, and the hesitance of courts to get involved in the face of slim-to-non-existent evidence of voting fraud.
Elders for Sound Democracy (ESD), an initiative of Elders Action Network, is our unwavering commitment to protect the fundamental American freedom to vote in a fair election without hindrance or interference. Please read on to learn about our Action Agenda to push back against the blatant campaign to curtail this American freedom.
During 2020, ESD’s precursor, Elders Stand for Fair Elections, was one of hundreds of organizations actively working to empower voters. We advocated for fair elections across the country and contacted hundreds of thousands of voters to help them overcome barriers to casting a ballot and having it count. Now we understand that the pro-democracy movement must mobilize a permanent capability to help voters overcome the barriers that are being thrown in their path to the ballot box.

Here’s what we need to do to generate pushback against threats to the freedom to vote:
    Push back against outrageous state legislation designed to make it harder for young people, people of color and other underrepresented individuals to vote.
    Advocate for federal legislation to create minimum national standards for fair elections.
    Gear up for massive voter outreach to help underrepresented voters participate in the 2022 and 2024 elections.
What can we do right now?
ESD is putting together our first 2021 Sound Democracy Action Agenda to take a stand on voter protection, fair representation, money in politics, ethical values and actions in public discourse, and media manipulation. These are the most important challenges we see in attaining and protecting a sound democracy.
Join us at a virtual Town Hall
The first thing that you can do is save the date for our first 2021 National Town Hall on Sound Democracy. This will be a great opportunity to meet some of our most effective organizers and learn how you can have an impact going forward. 
When: Wednesday, June 30, 3 PM EDT, Zoom
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Make your voice heard right now
You can be heard right now, and it will only take a few minutes. We are sponsoring two public response campaigns to support fair elections.
    Letters to your members of Congress in support of comprehensive voting rights legislation. We and hundreds of other groups are urgently supporting passage of the For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R.4) as the best pushback against the curtailment of voting rights in states. We make it easy at this Action Network link: Freedom to Vote
    A petition demanding fair redistricting standards through federal legislation. We are collaborating with Common Cause and more than 20 other voting rights organizations, so we expect to garner thousands of names in support. Please click this link to learn more: No Gerrymandering in 2021

Finally, we ask you to think about examples of “civic heroism” in your own community. We want to bring more of a focus on the election officials, health care workers, service workers, public officials, and civic and business leaders who have unflinchingly done the right thing for the public good. We will talk more about this at the June 30th Town Hall.

The future course of history hangs in the balance. We know from prior experience that a powerful public outcry in support of sound democracy definitely does make a difference. Please join us as we organize to secure the freedom to vote in fair elections for all Americans.
An ECA Massachusetts Legislative Priority
By Joel Kershner
ECA Massachusetts Legislative Team Member

On May 11, Tim Cronin, Massachusetts Director of Climate Xchange, made a presentation at the ECA Massachusetts monthly meeting about the Green Future Act, a bill before the Massachusetts legislature. He explained that the bill would eliminate the pollution loophole used by out-of-state fossil fuel importers. 87% of carbon pollution is emitted freely by fossil fuel polluters, who do not pay for the damage they cause to public health and the environment, or for the impact of climate change on people’s lives.
It is projected that the fee on carbon pollution created by this bill would raise $500-$750 million per year. The bill provides that the funds generated would be used for the following purposes:
  • Establish a Green Infrastructure Fund, which would invest in projects like electrifying transportation and increasing renewable energy. 60% of all green infrastructure spending must benefit environmental justice neighborhoods.
  • Direct significant aid to all cities and towns, funding local green infrastructure and preparing communities for climate change impacts.
  • Provide funds for training and development of a 21st century clean energy workforce, and support displaced fossil fuel workers and their families.
  • Provide direct cash payments to lower income households, protecting the state’s most vulnerable residents from short-term increases in utility costs as the global economy shifts away from fossil fuels.
For more information, go to: https://www.greenfuturenowma.org/
And here’s a link to the factsheet, which is also on their website: 
For more about legislation that we support, check these featured posts at the home page of our our website:
  • ECA Mass Legislative Priorities - Brief summaries and links to 18 bills pending in the Massachusetts legislature (our 6 top priority bills and 12 secondary priorities).
  • Deep Dialogue Highlights Forest Protection - Video and slides from our May 24 Deep Dialogue featuring a presentation and Q&A with guests Michael Kellett of RESTORE The North Woods and Janet Sinclair of Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, co-authors of two complementary forest bills we support, H.912 (An Act Relative to Forest Protection) and H.1002 (An Act Relative to Increased Protection of Wildlife Management Areas).
Use Native Plants to Support a Better Environment
By Carol Lynn (350MA) and Rick Lent (ECA Mass)

Wherever you live, no matter how little space you have to garden, you can make things a little better for you and the environment by planting native plants. “Native” plants are those that have arisen naturally in a region without human interventions. Specifically, Douglas Tallamy, Professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, writes: “despite being literally green, plants are rarely included in discussions about sustainable practices, as if they didn’t impact the environment….[yet] the amount and type of plants in a landscape play a crucial role in determining the abundance and diversity of animals that can live in that landscape—in other words, the carrying capacity of that landscape.” (Tallamy, 2019, p. 86.) Native plants have co-evolved with the insect and animal life of the region over millennia. As a result, they are crucial to maintaining a diverse and healthy ecosystem.

We know that insect populations are on the decline, in large part due to the loss of native habitats that provide their food. Non-native plants from our gardens that spread into natural areas are important contributors to this loss by forcing out native plants, causing food webs and habitats to collapse. The result is a decline in bees, including food pollinators, as well as moths, butterflies, beetles and other insects. Their declines impact the numbers of birds, bats, amphibians and small wildlife that feed on those insects. North America has already lost 3 billion birds in the past 50 years (Rosenberg et al in Science, 10/20/19). Since many insects are specialized for specific native plants, a return to diverse native habitats will support more species of pollinators and caterpillars essential for bird survival.

We can all take steps to build resilient habitats for insects and wildlife by including a diversity of native New England plants in our landscapes. To begin, consider reducing your lawn to the space needed for family activities. Replace the rest with native grasses, groundcovers, shrubs and wildflowers. A dense growth of native plants requires less use of pesticides and fertilizers, absorbs rainwater more efficiently, and removes the need for mulch. Also consider replanting that hard-to-maintain grass strip near the sidewalk and the street with native plants. Every bit helps! It’s easy to create beautiful, structured, and functional landscapes with natives! Ask for native plants when you visit a garden center.

To learn more, join ECA members and Sustainable Stow on Wednesday, June 16 at 7:00 pm for the next in a series of talks from Stow’s Randall Library. Our speaker will be Jessie Panek, a retired landscape designer and former instructor for Native Plant Trust. To receive a Zoom link for the session, send a request to: randalllibrary@gmail.com. The program will also be shared on Stow TV. You can see a recording of last month’s talk with State Senator Jamie Eldridge on Stow TV’s YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/3wlzrJf.

We flock to garden shops during spring to decorate our yards with vibrant flowers, shrubs and trees. This year, let’s add another reason for our plant purchases: building resilient habitats for pollinators and wildlife by growing the native plants they depend on. 

Photo above, by Carol Lynn: Bee on Culvers Root.
What We're Reading
For the Time Being
By Annie Dillard (Vintage Books, 2010 edition)
Annie Dillard has been one of my favorite authors since I read her first book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, in 1975. She was one of the first women authors to write about nature in a narrative form that shares her perspectives, emotions and scientific knowledge. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a breakthrough work of narrative prose, details an unnamed narrator’s explorations near her home and various contemplations on nature and life.
For The Time Being is Dillard’s tenth book. Dillard continues her personal, sparse narrative style - searching for answers centering on time, life itself, the origins of human beings on the planet, the existence of god and how humans have made sense of our lives. Her focus on deep time, the longevity of human existence and how humans have navigated consciousness continue to intrigue me as well.
Her book centers on an early 20th-century Jesuit priest, Teilhard de Chardin, who left quite a written record to ponder. His discovery of evidence of early humans in the Mongolian deserts dating before Neanderthals was an archeological accomplishment. From the desert, Dillard's interest in sand and why it makes up deserts begins a thread of curiosity to glaciers, parrotfish and other planetary ruminations. For The Time Being mines the mystery of human existence. And now - as we are in a race against time to deal with the challenges of global warming due to our greed for a culture based on burning fossil fuels - this book is a read that gripped my heart, spirit and mind.

-- Tina Grosowsky


Do you have a book review suggestion? Send your ideas to Newsletter Editor Diane Rapaport.
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.