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Climate Corner: Climate Change and the League of Women Voters

by Pat Scieszinski, League of Women Voters

In January, the Door County League of Women Voters co-sponsored the documentary film Saving Snow with the Climate Change Coalition of Door County. The film documents a disappearing snow season as the result of warmer winters as about more than the loss of winter sports. Less snow means lost income for the many towns and small businesses that depend on winter tourism and recreation to survive.

It also documents how the famous Birkebeiner race in Hayward, Wis. – the largest cross-country ski race in America – was canceled in 2017 due to warm weather.

Saving Snow focuses on people coming to terms with these changes financially and emotionally, but it also presents solutions.

It highlights determined individuals and organizations working to reduce their communities’ carbon footprints and raising awareness of the need for action to achieve sustainable and resilient environmental outcomes.

So what does climate change have to do with the mission and work of the League of Women Voters? A lot, it turns out. The League has a long history of environmental advocacy. Going back to the time of the suffragettes, when the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, a major mission of the League of Women Voters was to provide education to newly enfranchised women so that they could make informed voting decisions.  

That legacy continues today as the League works to inform citizens – women and men – about important issues, with that same mission of helping people make informed decisions about candidates and policies. Political but nonpartisan, the organization does not support any specific candidates or parties; instead, it focuses directly on issues that are important to everyone.

The League comes to a consensus about its policy positions only after it has conducted in-depth studies of an issue. These policy positions form the basis for its advocacy efforts and are not partisan in and of themselves.

When the League does take political action, such as writing letters to the editor under its name, the action is always based on a League-established policy position.  

According to Impact on Issues 2016-2018, a Guide to Public Policy Positions (LWVUS, 2017), early on the League took a position on the importance of conserving natural resources to “promote an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest.”  

In the 1920s, the League studied flood control and erosion; through the 1950s, water resources gained attention; and since the beginning of the 1970s environmental movement, the League has advocated for clean air and water, groundwater protection, hazardous-waste management, and recycling. For more than 15 years has addressed the need to combat climate change through smart public policy.

Most recently, much of the League’s work to address climate change has been advocacy to prevent weakening of existing environmental laws and deregulation that would open the way to more pollution. The League is active in these roles at the national, state and local levels of government. The League, with other environmental partners, advocated for rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, and it continues to fight legislation in Congress and at the state level that seeks to overturn environmental regulations.

In 2017, volunteers for the League of Women Voters Lake Michigan Region collaborated with other environmental groups to research four Wisconsin watersheds (Door/Kewaunee, Lower Fox River, Pike Root and Manitowoc/Sheboygan) to update fact sheets for public education.

Co-sponsoring the Saving Snow showing is another step in the League’s mission to address important public-policy issues through education based on a careful examination of the facts is tremendously important. Please join with us to help save our planet for future generations!

Pat Scieszinski is a retired social worker who lives in Sturgeon Bay. She has been an active member of the local League of Women Voters since 2016. For more information about the Door County League, visit leagueofwomenvotersdoorcounty.org.

The Climate Corner is a monthly column featuring a variety of writers from around the state and Door County who address various aspects of the challenges and opportunities of climate change. The column is sponsored by the Climate Change Coalition of Door County, which is dedicated to “helping to keep our planet a cool place to live.” The Coalition is always open to new members and ideas. Contact the Coalition at [email protected]

SAVE THE DATE

Sixth Annual Climate Change Forum

May 18, 2019

Stone Harbor Resort, Sturgeon Bay

Speakers: Buddy Huffaker, president and executive director, Aldo Leopold Foundation; Eric Chapman, member of the Tribal Council of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and director of the tribe’s Climate Resilience Initiative; Rosalyn Pertzborn, director, Office of Space Science Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.