Brooklyn, NY — For over a year now, the staff and volunteers with 350 Action, the political arm of the international climate group 350.org, have been working to push political candidates to adopt more progressive positions on climate change and, more recently, to mobilize young people and progressives to defeat Donald Trump.
But there’s been a deeper purpose to the organizing, as well: strengthening and politicizing a growing base of activists who will make bold climate action a priority for the next President.
“Going into this election, the climate justice movement already had a major presence on campuses across the country thanks to the fossil fuel divestment movement,” said Zoe Wong-Weissman, U.S. Digital Campaigner at 350 Action. “Now, we’re even stronger. In partnership with NextGen Climate, we’ve supported thousands of volunteers across the country to send more than 4 million texts so far to get out the vote in swing states.”
In the first phase of the election, 350 Action focused on setting up key fights for the next administration. The team perfected the art of bird-dogging, asking direct questions to candidates during the primaries, getting Clinton to come out in opposition of the Keystone XL pipeline and in favor of investigating ExxonMobil, and pushing her on fracking and fossil fuel development on public lands. They also needled Republican candidates over their ties to the fossil fuel industry, presenting Scott Walker with a check from the Koch Brothers, holding “sponsored by Exxon” banners behind Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, and more.
During the final months of the general election, 350 Action focused on getting out the vote on college campuses and among their large base of progressive voters. The group partnered with NextGen Climate Action on a massive campus organizing, phone banking, and texting campaign, reaching out to hundreds of thousands of young voters across the country. They also released a series of online videos featuring Bernie Sanders and climate activist Bill McKibben making the case for voting.
Both the online outreach and on the ground organizing had a dual focus: turn people out for the election and then keep them engaged for the fight ahead.
“All of our get out the vote efforts in over 20 campuses in swing states have also included a training component focused on why engaging in elections is extremely important for underscoring the seriousness of climate change, and how campaigns can build their groups and expand our movement by continuing to work together for years to come,” said Becca Rast, the Youth Engagement Coordinator for 350 Action based in Lancaster, PA. “We’re building an infrastructure and momentum among young people concerned about the climate that is meant to last far beyond election day.”
Key to that infrastructure are new and deeper relationships with other progressive social movements, from the Movement for Black Lives to immigrant justice organizations.
“Young people aren’t single issue voters or activists,” said Rast. “Millennials have been a key base this election because we are committed to ensuring that our democracy truly works for us – from climate to racial justice to student debt. We are helping build a movement that takes on the root causes of the problems facing our society, not just the symptoms. We really are stronger together, not just lining up behind a candidate, but finding common cause amongst ourselves.”
From the multiple sit-ins against the Keystone XL pipeline to the 400,000 person strong People’s Climate March in 2014, the climate justice movement demonstrated both an intensity and scale that helped tip the balance numerous times during the Obama Administration. Now, the movement is gearing up for an even more intense fight with the fossil fuel industry in the years ahead. Activists are already planning a major day of action against the Dakota Access Pipeline just one week after the election on November 15th.
“The task ahead is clear: we need to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure and make a rapid and just transition to 100% renewable energy,” said May Boeve, 350 Action Executive Director. “This election has helped strengthen the fossil fuel resistance in innumerable ways. Taking on the Empire of coal, oil and gas won’t be easy, but we’re ready. The work begins anew on November 9th.”
Contact: Dani Heffernan, 350 Action, firstname.lastname@example.org, (305) 992-1544