Can you imagine a world without clean water? What would you drink? Where would you swim? What would happen to the fish?
One can’t overstate the importance of clean and abundant water, as it is required for society to thrive. Yet, in virtually every part of the world, water resources are declining in quality and quantity. More than a billion people are living without access to safe drinking water. California faces the most serious water emergency in its history, and even historically water rich regions like the Northeast are facing increasing threats to both the quality and abundance of our water resources. Addressing these problems is typically considered the purview of government agencies, however each of us has a role to play and in the current political climate, it is clear that we cannot count on our public officials to protect our waterways. They are far too busy protecting the polluters that fill their campaign coffers, rather than strengthening and enforcing the Clean Water Act.
Individuals make countless decisions every day that have either a direct or indirect impact on the quality and abundance of our water resources. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, those decisions are not informed by an understanding of potential impacts and an appreciation or connection to their local water resources or the global water context in which we all live. The more connected individuals feel to their local waters, the better stewards they are for the resource. To save our waterways, we need to increase our connection to them. However, most people do not necessarily know how they can access and use their local water resources in the most responsible way.
Raising consciousness within our communities both on a local and broader scale is vital to addressing our water quality and scarcity concerns. Furthermore, it is imperative that we educate people on the concrete ways they can make responsible decisions, as well as engage them in connecting more directly with their local waterways. So what can we do? Perhaps the best place to start is engaging our communities and children in recreational use of our waterways.
To that end, Waterkeeper Alliance has teamed up with Toyota and KEEN to launch a series of Splash events where local supporters across the country swim, boat, paddle or fish in celebration of everyone’s right to clean water. The first two events to date, co-hosted by Hackensack Riverkeeper and Charleston Waterkeeper, have been a resounding success in reconnecting scores of citizens to the Hackensack River in New Jersey and to Colonial Lake in Charleston, South Carolina.
At the Hackensack Riverkeeper Splash event, close to 100 paddlers were able to reconnect with the Hackensack River in the Meadowlands. As Waterkeeper Alliance President, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., stated “[t]oday we’re trying to reconnect people to these resources—to the rivers—to remind them that the Meadowlands is the Serengeti of the Northeast.” In Charleston, more than 250 people joined Charleston Waterkeeper at Colonial Lake in downtown Charleston to witness what locals say were the first water vessels on the lake in more than 100 years.
By creating these water events, Waterkeeper Alliance hopes to show the relationship between participation in outdoor activities and a healthy environment, as well as physical activity and a clean bill of health. As these events grow each year, we hope that they will encourage individuals to be more active on and around their local waterways on a regular basis. By increasing this engagement, we expect that individuals will connect more to the importance of the Clean Water Act as it turns 40 and to protecting the vitality of these resources, thereby expanding the army of citizens needed for the most important fight of our time—the fight for clean water. Safely swimming, boating, paddling and fishing on our waterways is not a right we can take for granted.
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By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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