A Nudge for the Nudge

by Jean Waight

A Volunteer’s Walk With the Clean Energy Initiative-1631

Ever since I received training in climate change issues in 2010, I’ve tried to be a nudge in my church, promoting the Community Energy Challenge, more advanced recycling, and so on. But when the initiative of my dreams finally came along, one that boldly yet carefully takes action to make clean energy more affordable to Washingtonians and help clean the air, it was a bad time for me to jump in. Or so I thought, as I listed to myself all the reasons why I really couldn’t help. Here’s what happened.

But first, can we talk about trust? I think we are done trusting shadowy oil giants. I respect those workers in the fossil fuel industries who serve honorably. But the actions at the top of those industries have long been a sordid story of deception, domination and destruction. I won’t list more than a couple of examples: “Exxon knew” is of course one, and a fine short film, “Taken for a Ride,” is another. The fossil fuel industries have been allowed to shovel onto all of us the pollution they generate, free of cost to them. Now that we have an opportunity to vote to shift part of that responsibility back onto them, the question of trust is very important: “Where do you place your trust?”

In 2014, I was invited to a listening session run by people I knew and trusted. It turns out these sessions went on all over Washington state.

Then last year my church’s environmental justice circle looked for a hands-on project and identified the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy and its clean air/clean energy campaign. The listening sessions of 2014 had borne fruit! With enormous patience over three years, many groups and individuals with widely differing viewpoints formed the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy and developed Initiative 1631.

I looked into it and found it well written — able to answer my most probing questions about oversight, about helping businesses adapt and compete, and about help for low-income folks. This initiative will indeed make clean energy more affordable for more people, reduce pollution that leads to worsening asthma, heart disease and lung disease, and create more than 40,000 good-paying jobs across Washington.

The diversity of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy astonishes me. Here’s just a top-level list: Health professionals and health organizations, low-income advocates, farm workers, tribal nations, faith groups and individual churches, business groups, labor unions, communities of color, civic engagement groups such as the League of Women Voters, as well as scientists and all the leading local environmental protection groups.

I trust this coalition. This is what I’ve been waiting for.

So I jumped in. Or rather, I was ready to encourage others to get involved, but what I had on my plate made me afraid to commit to more. It was my church’s environmental justice circle who nudged me forward. They gave me a push, and offered to volunteer with me. I found a way to weave volunteering in between my other obligations and limitations. Signature gathering rewarded us with thanks and encouraging comments from the public, and when I-1631 made the ballot, knocking on doors to get out the vote was also rewarding.

Why is it so important to get out the vote? After all, as of this writing, polls show I-1631 with a sizable majority of Washingtonians in favor. But big oil companies know they aren’t popular and so they pin their hopes, using lots of money, on promoting reckless untruths. They sell fear. They want us to sit home and put our trust in our present destructive and costly track — costly in a myriad of ways. We’ve seen their playbook before.

Where do you place your trust? This is your chance to make a difference for our future. Vote Yes on I-1631. Learn more at: yeson1631.org/learn/.

Jean Waight is a Bellingham writer and a member of First Congregational Church of Bellingham/United Church of Christ.

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