A Citizen Mandate Letter

Ann is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me on the internet.

We met online in the early days of our mom blogging adventures, about (OMG) fifteen years ago. Over the years we’ve participated in panels together, Frances and I have spent wonderful weekends at her cottage, we’ve met up for dinner and coffee, we had that tea party (which I’m shocked to discover I haven’t blogged about yet!), and throughout Ann has always been so generous and supportive. You’d never know from the time she makes available for her friends that she’s a busy parenting author conducting readings and workshops and writing and rewriting dozens of books and I don’t even know how many articles.

And like everyone else I know for more than ten minutes, Ann has been on the receiving end of many of my rants about how important it is for citizens to be engaged in their government throughout terms, to pressure politicians and make their voice heard. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when she wrote a mandate letter on her website about the actions she’s committing to taking between now and the next federal election:

“I wrote this letter to remind myself that the actions citizens take in between elections are even more important than the actions they take during elections. I want the next government to make progress on three complex and interconnected issues — the climate crisis, electoral reform, and income inequality. My plan spells out what I, as an ordinary citizen, can do to encourage them to make progress on all three fronts.”

You should read the whole thing; and also, please consider writing your own! What issues are you most concerned about? How will you engage with our government to encourage them to act on those priorities?

It doesn’t need to be fancy or grammatically correct and you don’t need to share it, though public accountability never hurts. You can put yours on twitter, FB, instagram, or in the comments section here or on Ann’s site.

New cabinet postings were announced today and shortly our new government will be getting to work. How will you use your voice to influence what they do?

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Here’s mine:

Citizen Mandate Letter for Andrea McDowell

During the upcoming session of Parliament, I will be doing everything in my power to encourage my elected representatives to make substantial progress on the climate crisis, recognizing the way it intersects, reflects and amplifies so many other injustices currently faced: income inequality, race and gender discrimination, mental health, and so on. Every bit of genuine progress on any form or aspect of inequality will facilitate climate action, and vice versa, so long as that progress is taken with acknowledgement of the ways it all ties together.

This entails:

1. I will support the work of individuals and organizations in my community addressing climate justice. Financially, where I can afford it; with time and promotion regardless.

2. I will help my fellow Hamiltonians develop skills and knowledge in what the climate emergency means, what climate action we need, and how and when to have conversations with politicians. I know the science is overwhelming, and even among those committed to action, there’s a wide diversity of opinion and strategy. It’s hard to figure out who really means what they say and who’s just bluffing, particularly when you’re not in this space every day. What do government proposals mean? What are the consequences of those proposals? What does the science say? How can we participate?

3. I will write to my elected officials on all important matters of policy. When I do, I will connect those policy matters to the climate emergency; it’s not like drawing those links is hard at this point.

4. I’ll work to find and build the bridges between different political communities in good-faith efforts to move action forward. Climate is an issue that is too important to allow partisan warfare to derail efforts. We all sink or swim on this planet together; I can’t buy my daughter and myself passage out of the climate emergency by engaging in individual good works. So much needs to be done on so many fronts that there is near infinite room for people to engage on meaningful and substantial climate action and policy coming from very different perspectives; all efforts will be less than perfect, because humans are less than perfect, so if we spend our precious remaining time taking shots at imperfect climate proposals and actors we will shoot them all down, and do as much as any oil company ever did to bring about the end.

For years, working in the environmental field seemed like it would be enough of a contribution for me; then, after meeting people who live in remote northern communities already struggling with climate impacts 15 years ago, working to incorporate climate projects into my jobs seemed like it would be enough. After the failure of the Copenhagen summit, switching to a career in renewable energy and building wind farms seemed like it could be enough. I had an “I gave at the office” attitude on climate activism, broadly.

Then last year’s IPCC report came out. It hit me that Frances would be 27 in 2030, the deadline for halving global carbon emissions, and would either be looking forward to a challenging but possible future, or a future where the world just continues to disintegrate for her and everyone else in her generation. Leaving climate work at work no longer felt responsible. It no longer even felt tolerable. So yes, I’m tired and overwhelmed and frankly unsuited to community activism, as introverted as I am, but I’m doing it anyway, because I can’t look my daughter in the eyes if I don’t.

If our elected representatives were hearing from even 100 of their constituents once a month–on any issue–their priorities would shift. If we all could find one or two hours a month to do community climate work, we could move mountains.

2 thoughts on “A Citizen Mandate Letter”

  1. I think it’s wonderful that two of the best people on the internet are working together! I voted Green in this election to send a message in car-obsessed suburbia that it’s the most important issue we face. I plan on a mixture of personal change (shopping differently, eating differently, seeking to ditch the car within 5 years) and activism. It feels like an impossible mountain at times, but I see so many positive steps (such as in the dialogue of my kids and their teachers.) And, it’s really not like we have a choice…. Love your manifesto. I need to create one.

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