With the 2016 election cycle finally coming to a close, the upcoming change in leadership will begin a new chapter for our nation. Although the polls are closed for now, the issues during this election have not ended. With more than 20 million students in United States colleges this year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, college-aged Americans make up a large portion of the population. This significant portion of society deserves to have its voices heard, not only by voting in the presidential election, but by keeping up the momentum on political participation over time.
It’s true that the next President of the United States largely impacts our nation’s future environmental policies, and the priority levels assigned to these issues. According to Grist, issues like climate change, discussed for only five minutes and twenty seven seconds over the course of the three 2016 debates, were not at the forefront of this election. In order to ensure that this does not occur again in 2020, students must be agents for change. Continuing to demonstrate civic involvement after the election comes to an end starts with keeping up to date on issues at hand.
Students can do their part to act as a climate voter by learning candidates’ stances on the environment from non-partisan online sources, and checking out voting records on the issues at hand.
“Being an informed voter is important because you have the power to learn more about your candidate and pick the one that you think will create the best future for you, your family, and the nation as whole,” says senior accounting major Abbie Moore.
Familiarizing yourself with the actual details of platforms put forward is essential in any election. This is even more crucial for environmental topics, where the media largely excludes these from the conversation. Senior psychology major Allison Williams says, “I believe that Standing Rock should have been covered in the elections but it wasn’t. The media hasn’t given enough attention to this issue and it deserves to be covered because it not only deals with sustainability issues but human rights issues.” Students must find out information for themselves when it is not provided to form informed opinions on the policies at hand, and demonstrate their support to ensure that future political decisions do actively include these issues
Recent campaigns, such as Million Climate Voters, Next Gen Climate, and the Environmental Voters Project, help to reinforce these values among constituents. Signing pledges with these organizations to vote with the health of the planet in mind will prompt reminders and updates on future election information to ensure that the environmentally concerned population is being heard. Students who feel connected to these issues can sign on and take an active role in creating a livable future with the power of their vote.
There is no pause to the political process or the problems dealt with by government officials. The Pew Research Center states that voter turnout peaks with the decision of the future President, such as in 2012 when 53.7 percent cast their vote, despite the much smaller 36.9 percent which showed up for the 2010 midterms. Students that mobilized with this unprecedented election must not lose their momentum when the buzz of the Presidential race has gone away. Make every day election day by continuing to voice your concerns and helping to shape our nation moving forward.
— Lexi Reynolds
Lawrenceville Eco Rep