Why Jill Votes

Why Jill Votes

According to the Environmental Voter Project, 10.1 million Americans who identify the environment as one of their top priorities did not vote in the 2016 Presidential election. That election was determined by 77,000 votes and the dark ramifications of environmental collapse and climate change have only intensified since 2016.

The timeline to reverse course is fast approaching as we flood, burn and increasingly run dry. In order to protect ourselves and future generations from these threats to our way of life, we simply cannot afford to have anyone who cares about the environment not exercising their right to vote. We have an exceptional opportunity to create the change we seek but far too many see voting as a mere gesture.

While this sentiment is understandable, voting matters. Voting is our voice. Yet low voter turnout by those most impacted by compromised air, soil, water, food and health has plagued us since the birth of the environmental movement decades ago. And the environmental movement has played a role in this: somewhere along the line, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that environmental and social injustices are often one and the same—and no human can survive, much less thrive, on a decimated planet, or in a decimated democracy.

Many of our most vulnerable communities have been disporportionaly impacted by climate disasters and have become dumping grounds for toxic waste. Clean air and water are not accessible to all, and too may are denied basic healthy access to nature, which plays such a subtle but vital role in our individual well-being.

Equally important, many frontline communities have not been welcomed into – or represented – in the movement for environmental justice, protection and repair, even if their knowledge can help lead us all forward.

This is where storytelling comes in as a powerful solution and is why The Redford Center asked some of our favorite filmmakers committed to advancing environmental progress to use their passion and skills as storytellers to help redefine what it means to be an environmental activist and voter. Theses short films carry stories of people fighting for our future every day, creating the pathways we need to live healthier lives and sharing why it is that they vote.

Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsey, community leaders in Detroit, transform vacant lots into urban bee farms and see clear parallels between civic engagement and their work. “I always refer back to the honeybees,” Nicole says in the film. “They don’t depend on just one honeybee to do all the work for the entire hive or the colony…they all come together for the good of that hive, that colony or that community.”

In another film indie musician Thao Nguyen, of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, appeals to the Vietnamese-American community to get out the vote in her new bilingual anthem, Ballad to the Ballot. She shows her new music video to her mother for the first time in a recorded Zoom call where Thao is making vegan pho and making sure her mom knows how to make sure her vote is counted.

Teenager Andrew Oh stars in his own short film, Just a Scroll, which shows him scrolling through his Instagram feed as pictures of his peers speak to him about their future plans to have successful lives. Then one girl shares that a wildfire is ravishing her community and canceling her future, and in that moment, Andrew realizes he must help engage more people to vote and ensure protection for all of his peers.

These filmmakers and their subjects represent many different regions and states and take on multiple issues from multiple perspectives. They are black and Indigenous and Latinx and white and Asian American. They are older and younger, and they all understand that we must elect leadership that will treat the environmental and climate crises like the emergencies that they are.

I believe deeply in the power of story to affect change, and I know that we need to bring everyone into the fight for a healthier environment. We know what’s at stake. The solutions exist. And representation matters.

It is my hope that these storytellers and the stories they are sharing will invite significantly more people into the movement for environmental justice, protection and repair, and inspire many more of us to vote that value in every election. For our own reasons, on our own terms.

This is why I vote. And I hope you will, too. Vote early, vote safely, make your voting plan and organize your pod to do so as well. Take action at redfordcenter.org/vote.


In power,
Jill Tidman, Executive Director of The Redford Center