On Tuesday afternoon, I cast my vote full of hope.
On Wednesday morning, I went to bed at 3 a.m. -- after watching eight hours of election returns. When I woke up, I had a severe case of dread. Not an existential dread. Rather, a version that I could feel in every fiber of my body.
I have been writing about the environment for six years.
As I looked over all the articles I have produced, and wondered what was going to happen with a climate denier in the Oval Office. I slowly became reinvigorated.
I reread the interviews I had conducted with the numerous elected officials who had stood up for the belief that extreme weather was the number one priority for the United States and the world. There were the profiles on a range of individuals. A mother in a small southern town who was fighting the coal-fired plant that was making her children sick. A grandfather in the northeast who was pushing back against the fracking infrastructure destroying the serenity of his village, and the pastoral tract of land that had been in his family for two generations.
My spine stiffened up when I revisited the conversation I had with Dr. Robert Bullard, the "Father of Environmental Justice." His groundbreaking work has influenced so many to understand and contextualize green issues within the much larger space of racial inequality.
I got reenergized thinking about my conversation with Lois Gibbs, who showed how an angry mother can be powerful and change the trajectory of events, even when overwhelming odds are part of the equation.
As I started to dig into the election results, I became convinced that not all was lost. There were several definitive rays of hope.
These women entered the Senate, and yes, they were all Democrats, and some were women of color.
- Catherine Cortez Mastro, who replaced Sen. Harry Reid in Nevada, became the first Latina Senator. Her opponent had a dismal record on the environment, as well as infusions of money to his campaign from none other than the Koch Brothers. Previously, as Nevada's Attorney General, Cortez Mastro was committed to a clean energy economy and protecting her state's natural resources.
- The daughter of immigrants, Kamala Harris, won California's Senate seat. She will be replacing Barbara Boxer, the stalwart defender of clean air. Harris supported the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.
- Tammy Duckworth, a former military vet, captured the Illinois seat. While a Congresswoman, Duckworth pushed to develop Biofuels for use by the military.
- Maggie Hassan, the two-term governor of New Hampshire, made expanding and improving the Affordable Care Act and combating the heroin and opioid crisis two of the cornerstones in her campaign against incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte.
Well, their desire to eliminate "burdensome regulations" conflicts with our right to be able to breathe.
Since Wednesday, I've received a ton of emails from progressive groups, women's groups, human rights advocates, and those afraid for the future of our planet. Consistently, the takeaway is that nothing is over...it's just beginning.
It's been shown that more women in public office impact how our country is governed. Stats even indicate that women in Congress pass more bills than men.
Yes, we saw a lot of misogyny in the 2016 election. But that's nothing new.
If you are reading this and want to make a difference, make your voice heard. Start hyperlocal. Attend community environmental meetings. Make sure you meet your local reps. (I've stopped my Councilman to give him a ten-minute list of my concerns while he had a cup of coffee in his hand and was trying desperately to get into his car!)
More and more women are realizing that they can run for office in their towns and for state legislatures. If you have ever entertained that thought, check out Vote Run Lead, which "supports the aspirations of women who want to transform our country and democracy through their participation as leaders."
Every action helps.