Wednesday, March 07, 2007

You’re the Boss

A few years ago I attended an ACTRA conference. ACTRA is the Canadian film and TV actors’ union. We were all quite annoyed by the lack of federal support in strengthening the Canadian film and TV industry.

The attendees were invited to make comments. A fellow got up and told us that he once dated a girl whose father was a Member of Parliament. He had asked the MP if he actually read his constituents’ letters and emails. The MP replied that yes, of course he did. To him, one letter or email that expressed a particular point of view on an issue was tantamount to 1000 constituents who felt the same way but didn’t bother to write to him.

We’re the Boss
It may not feel like it but when it comes to our political representatives we’re the boss. We hire them. They’re accountable to us. Their job is to safeguard the public trust.

It’s important to write to your representative to let them know how you feel about a certain issue. They (or a staff member) actually read your email or letter, and they do respond – sometimes with a stock policy answer (sigh…). If they don’t respond you may think twice about voting for them in the next election.

Democracy in Action
The movement towards sustainability has many benefits aside from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving soil, preserving species habitat and the like. The movement engages people, certainly me. I have become more interested in the affairs of politics and government. I’ve even gone so far as to join the Green Party of Canada. I never thought that I would be a member of a political party. But here I am.

I write this not to convince you to join the Green Party (which you can easily do by clicking here). No no no. I write this because I believe that democracy and its fundamental traits – elected representatives, civil liberties, separation of church and state – must never be taken for granted. Witness the recent erosion of civil liberties in the United States, and even Canada, all in the name of security from terrorism. The irony is that by eroding civil liberties we become our own worst enemy, undermining the very values that define who we are.

We best safeguard and strengthen our democracy by becoming actively engaged in it.

Taking Action
You’ve bought the funny looking light bulbs and recyclable paper. You’ve parked the car and taken transit. You even turn off your monitor when you go to the bathroom. Now you ask yourself: when is government going to step in and make my green world even greener? Huh?! You’ve composed amazing letters to government in the shower. Now it’s time to commit them to an email, address it to your representative and press the send button.

Find out who your rep is - federal, provincial or state, and municipal – if you don’t know. All reps have a contact page on government websites.

Things to consider:

  • Before writing, identify if the issue is local, provincial/state or federal and choose the appropriate rep.
  • Know the issue well. A bit of research will help you articulate your case. Visit websites of environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists or David Suzuki Foundation. Chances are they’ve placed the information you need on their site.
  • Always be respectful when writing to your rep. Assume that they truly care about your concerns and want to hear from you. Write to them as if they were your next door neighbour.
  • Thank your rep if they are responsible for positive gains in an issue that matters to you. I don’t think people are thanked enough for the work they do.
    For tips from the David Suzuki Foundation, click here. He recommends phoning as the most effective way to communicate to your rep.

Current Campaigns:

Canadians for Kyoto. March 11 rally.
Concerned about more nuclear reactors in Ontario? Click here.
Sierra Club of Canada Campaigns
Greenpeace’s Action Page

Step It Up! April 14 day of action towards 80% carbon reduction by 2050. Write to your Congressperson!
Sierra Club USA Action Centre
Union of Concerned Scientists Action Centre

In the News

Investigation Reveals Widespread Suppression of Federal Climate Research
Read up on how the US Feds suppressed scientists from reporting their global warming findings.

Green Bloggers


Grist Magazine

Tree Hugger

Zerofootprint Blog

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