Saturday, November 03, 2018

The Cost & Challenge of Maintaining Democracy

Bioneers Pulse – updates from the Bioneers Community
Greetings fellow Bioneers! 
These are trying times. With Midterms approaching, we know that participating in our democratic system in order to elect officials we believe in is one important way to help move us toward a more equitable future. We’ve seen how powerful our voices are when we pay attention, speak out, and refuse to back down. The record number of women and people of color running for public office is inspiring, and the critical thinkers offering their time and efforts to find solutions to very real, very big problems is encouraging. In this week’s newsletter, we take a look at the thought leaders and activists working toward meaningful change in our democracy.

The Big Question: The Real Cost of Voting Restrictions

In the September issue of the Election Law Journal, political scientists published research on exactly how much time and effort is required to vote in each state. The Cost of Voting Index, as they call it, proved that it’s much easier to vote in certain states thanks to laws safeguarding the ease of registration and the process of voting, and looked at the relationship between ease of voting and voter turnout. While voting proved to be easiest in Oregon, which state came in last place on the Index?

Wise Words

“Politicians and fossil fuel executives have millions of dollars, but what we have is people power. We can counteract the power of money by talking to people, educating them, making sure that we’re standing up for what we believe in, and making sure that climate change is a central issue that’s being solved. Canvassing is a really great way to do that, as well as registering people to vote. Ultimately, we choose our politicians. Educating the general public about climate change and the political system is so important.”
Rose Strauss, climate activist and college student who received national attention this year when Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner called her “young and naive” for questioning his ethics in regards to campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies.
Heather McGhee

Video to Watch: Hope for the Future of America

During her keynote address at the 2017 Bioneers Conference, Heather McGhee discusses how the beauty of what America is becoming gives her hope for the future.

This Week on Bioneers Radio & Podcast

Women and men from vulnerable communities everywhere are rising up to gain equal access to clean water and air, equal environmental enforcement and protection, and equitable land use and planning. Impassioned community organizers Mary Gonzales and Peggy Shepard show us all how successful environmental justice campaigns across the U.S. are raising the voices of people of color and low-income communities and creating a better world for everyone.
Subscribe to the Bioneers podcast now: iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | YouTube

Person to Know: Gar Alperovitz

When Gar Alperovitz, Ph.D. spoke at Bioneers 2018 about changing our current “system,” he did so with the conviction of someone who’s seen exactly how our current system works. Alperovitz has had a distinguished career spanning multiple professions—from historian, professor, and scholar to political economist, policy expert, and government official. He’s channeled all of that experience into his current work at The Democracy Collaborative, of which he’s co-founder, and as President of the National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives and co-chair of The Next System Project.
In his 2018 Bioneers keynote address, “Why We Need a Next System,” Alperovitz discusses breakthrough models for community-based political-economic development, and how we can begin to build and work toward the systemic change we need to save both democracy and the planet. Following is an excerpt from his keynote address, which will be published in full on in the coming weeks. Find out more about Alperovitz and what is giving him hope for our future here.
If there’s one thing I’d like to do, it’s to take this abstract idea — the system — and bring it down to: What is it I can do tomorrow to change the system? The task in this period, in my view, is to lay down an irreversible foundation when it comes to projects, organizing, politics, etc., that cannot be reversed — that establishes the basis for a transformation.
My heroes are the Civil Rights workers in Mississippi in the 1930s. We don't know many of their names. They laid the foundation for the 1960s. That is where I think we are, and to see ourselves in that role, I think, is empowering.
Everybody knows we live in something called corporate capitalism. Now that means there’s extreme concentration of wealth ownership. The top 400 people have more wealth than the bottom half this society — that’s 150 million, 160 million people. There’s extraordinary income inequality and ecological damage. We know all about this. But the systemic problem is how you organize an advanced system so that you can reverse these trends with the institutions moving with you rather than against you.
I want you to think about design. What is the nature of the design that you would actually want to live in? Who would own things? Where would the power come from? Would it be an expansionary system? Corporations have to expand. They’ve got to keep reporting more profits, and that has environmental implications for big corporations. So what is the nature of the design? What would it look like in the ideal? How do we get from here to there?

Help Bioneers Continue This Important Work

We are thrilled to share that on Sunday, Azita Ardakani and Honeycomb Portfolio announced they would be matching donations to Bioneers, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000! Honeycomb Portfolio is a female-founded fund led by Bioneer Azita Ardakani, which invests in early-stage, nature-inspired, for-profit social enterprises. Support Bioneers now with Venmo or Paypal by giving to or click the button below.

Take Action: Vote!

Election Day is approaching quickly and as we’ve heard time and again, these Midterms are crucial. This year, we have the potential to create meaningful change by voting for candidates who have vowed to make meaningful change. Protecting our natural world and humanity from the effects of climate change is going to be essential in the years to come, so voting for candidates who prioritize environmental action will be a big step in the right direction. (15 million people who care about the environment did not vote in the 2014 midterms … a frightening statistic that must change in 2018.) Find out more about what’s at stake in this midterm election here, and why it’s so important to educate yourself on the issues and take it to the polls.

What We’re Tracking: Bioneers and Beyond

  • The group of activist Nuns known as the Nuns on the Bus have already traveled more than 5,600 miles on their latest 44-city, cross-country Tax Justice Truth Tour and are gearing up for their final stop in Mar-A-Lago this week. (Sarah Anderson via
  • After two years of on-the-ground organizing, evidence gathering, and legal accompaniment, a provincial court in Ecuador ruled in favor of nullifying 52 gold mining concessions granted without the Kofán community of Sinangoe’s permission, thereby protecting 79,000 acres in a mega-biodiverse headwaters region of their ancestral territory. (via Bioneers/Ceibo Alliance/Amazon Frontlines)
  • A group of 21 plaintiffs, aged 11 to 22 slammed the Trump administration with a federal lawsuit that demands the government make efforts to fight climate change—and Julia Olson is the incredible lawyer trying the landmark case. (John Schwartz via New York Times)

The Big Question, Answered: The Real Cost of Voting Restrictions

Mississippi’s archaic and intentionally difficult voting laws, including requiring identification at the polls and a complete lack of early voting, contributed to its taking last place on the Cost of Voting Index. The researchers also found that in many cases there’s a correlation between the ease or difficulty of voting in certain states and voter turnout. So in Mississippi’s case, the ease of voting is low, contributing to low voter turnout. The researchers also found that for every one unit increase in the difficulty of voting as measured by the Index in 2016, voter turnout was likely to decrease by 3.3 percent. Read more about the Cost of Voting Index and the researcher’s findings at The Washington Post.
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