By Meredith Miller Vostrejs
Jeb Eddy (Philippines 1963-66) is a founding member of the RPCV4EA Leadership Team. He is an active citizen and dedicating a lot of his time and energy to mobilizing voters who care about the environment, regardless of party affiliation. We asked him about his get out the vote (GOTV) activities. Jeb offers insight into his activism, and ways you can best determine yours, in the Q&A below.
How are you mobilizing people who care about the environment to vote in the November election?
My favorite organization for GOTV is this non-partisan, non-profit the Environmental Voter Project (EVP). They have done “big data” analysis to identify literally millions of registered voters with environmental values in states which need a larger environmental voice but who do not show up to vote regularly. EVP’s aim is to increase their turnout. Among other things, the offer a clean, speedy text messaging service.
There are multiple ways to support EVP’s goal. The one I like is text messaging. Using their prepared messages or your slightly personalized versions, via a software service named “Hustle” (yes, that is really the name!), a complete text message to the cell phone of a voter in a target state shows up in your screen. No political party is mentioned or involved. Tap Send. Two or three seconds later, the next message addressed to a different person on the EVP list for the same targeted area shows up on your screen. Tap Send. Get it? It’s quick (20+ per minute), minimally intrusive; and the personalized message you send is basically non-partisan: “PLEASE VOTE!”
About 5-10% of people you send a message to reply. The most common is “Wrong number!” or “Take me off your list.” Sometimes you get “Definitely! Thanks.” A few are hostile. Bid them polite farewell. We are RPCVs. We can handle it.
Another good group is a national non-partisan, non-profit alliance that consists of 22,000+ faith-based organizations: Interfaith Power and Light (IPL). Great name, right? Individual member churches conduct actions that they choose and support. The churches and synagogues are in every state of the country; there is a directory by state. They, like NPCA Affiliates, must be officially non-partisan. RPCV affiliates as groups or as individuals can join other activists in your home or other states.
The League of Women Voters (which has accepted male members since the 1970’s) is great about non-partisan voter registration and election information. They have state and local chapters all around the country. I have enjoyed registering high school students as they approach voting age (which was 21 when I was a PCV in the Philippines).
There are lots of other groups, doing everything from postcard and letter writing to door-to-door canvassing, but these are mostly party-oriented. A bit of Googling can help you find something specific for your interests.
Why do you think mobilizing environmental voters is important in this election?
This area of concern has never before been so critical, and I’d guess that nearly all RPCVs know it. Our health, incomes, societies, and very lives depend on healthy resources. Some Americans seem to support development and consumption of energy and other resources at what are seriously unsustainable rates. A small slice of our citizenry will benefit from that policy; many more will bear the costs. I have four grandchildren. Their future (and yours) matters! Both national and down-ballot offices matter. Start discussions among RPCVs and other friends! Remember that climate change was voted the #1 issue in the survey in January.
How do you think your Peace Corps experience informs your environmental work?
My island in the Philippines was a rice and coconut exporter. Acute ill health and poverty were not visible to me. Most developing societies and economies that support well-being of their people need an agricultural base - clean water, soil, trees, fish - and need the inter-related animal populations (bird poop distributes tree seeds). We PCVs got to experience some of the interconnectedness of life. It is still true in cities and suburbs everywhere. But we have to be advocates.
How do you think your Peace Corps experience informs your GOTV work?
“Practice Democracy.” Those words are the way I interpret the Third Goal. It fits with the many other service actions that RPCVs engage in. The extensive interpersonal interactions that we have had with different host country people and fellow PCVs and RPCVs gives us some quiet confidence in being friendly and purposeful.
What advice do you have for RPCVs interested in supporting GOTV efforts with people who care about the environment?
There is no single “best” activity. Challenges vary from state to state. Remember that as an NPCA Affiliate we are and must remain officially non-partisan. Of course, we are completely free to practice democracy as individuals in whatever ways our independent mindedness calls us!
Note: Image above is “Sun” by Mr. Furious for Patagonia's efforts to encourage youth to vote the environment.