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Advocacy

  • Meredith Miller Vostrejs posted an article
    Email your representative about the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act see more

    By Kate Schachter

    Climate and our environment aren’t the only things we advocate for in the Returned Peace Corp Volunteers for Environmental Action (RPCV4EA) group. We are committed to the success of Peace Corps as well.

    President Kennedy envisioned tens of thousands of volunteers in the field by the end of the 1960s. By June 1966, over 15,000 volunteers were serving, the historic high. In March 2020 7,300 individuals were evacuated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One year later, on March 1, 2021, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act was introduced, an important piece of legislation to help raise the number of volunteers to 10,000. 

    For details on the importance of the Reauthorization Act, see this article from Jonathan Pearson, Director of Advocacy at the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA). Or, if you love the nitty gritty, see the bill itself.

    Action Item! Email your representative about the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act. The following are important and easy actions to take: Follow this link to see if your House Representative is a co–sponsor of H.R. 1456. Use this link to urge your Representative to co–sponsor H.R. 1456, or to thank them if they already are a co–sponsor.

    In May, Pearson sent the (slightly modified) message below about the need for the community of volunteers, friends, and allies to reach out to Congress. Due to the efforts of the NPCA community, we now have 105* cosponsors; this is up from the 89 in his original message! Is it possible for 330 more voting members of Congress to sign on? Maybe not in this Congress, but we can only try. I am pleased to see that my own Representative has added his name.


    Message from Jonathon Pearson: 105* House Reps Co-Sponsor Peace Corps Reauthorization Act

    A growing number of members of the House of Representatives are showing their support for comprehensive Peace Corps legislation that calls for improvements and reforms aimed at strengthening in-service and post-service health, supporting volunteers and RPCVs, and honoring Peace Corps service.

    The legislation (H.R. 1456), introduced by RPCV Representative John Garamendi (D–CA) and Representative Garret Graves (R–LA), would expedite and prioritize redeployment of evacuated volunteers, would provide volunteers with whistleblower protections, expand paid post-service health insurance to three months, ensure RPCVs a full year of Non-Competitive Eligibility for federal hiring when a government shutdown or hiring freeze occurs, increases the worker’s compensation rate for RPCVs unable to work due to service–related illness or injury, and much more.


    If you are ready to take the next step, Publish a Peace Corps 60th Anniversary Op-Ed”. With NPCA’s Advocacy team, we are co-hosting this weekly event on Tuesdays through September 21st at 8:00pm ET. Join us!

  • Meredith Miller Vostrejs posted an article
    As elections approach, RPCVs have an opportunity to voice their concern about climate change. see more

     

    By Mike Kiernan and Paul Thompson

    RPCVs concerned about the impact of climate change have an excellent opportunity to express their views between now and election day. 

    The mainstream media is focusing on climate change as a major factor in the extreme weather events we are seeing across the United States, and this ongoing news coverage provides us an opportunity to write short letters to our local newspapers expressing the need for politicians running for Congress to declare their positions on proposed climate change solutions in advance of the November 3 elections. Below is a short sample letter that might be helpful. 

    In writing your letter, there are two important rules: 

    1. Keep your letter short – no more than 250 words -- and 
    2. Cite a recent headline that appears in your local paper that mentions a recent event tied to climate change – such as the wildfires on the west coast or a recent hurricane along the Gulf Coast or Florida.

    If you follow these two rules, your letter has a much greater chance of getting published. 

     

    To find out how to send a letter to your local paper, just Google: The name of your local paper AND "How to Submit a Letter" and you will get a link to the appropriate instructions. Make sure you include your name, phone number and home address in sending your letter. If you have problems, contact Mike Kiernan, our media consultant, at mkiernan.media@gmail.com and he can help.


    Why is this important?  Because with so many major issues at stake in this election, it is easy to overlook the importance of climate change as the next major existential threat facing the planet. 

    Some of you may already have submitted op-eds and letters on climate change and have been disappointed with the results. We encourage you to try one more time, keeping these two things in mind:  

    First, editorial boards don't hold it against you if you have written a previous letter that did not get published, provided you keep your new letter short and are able to cite a more recent story on the topic in the paper. 

    Second, even if many of these letters do not get published, they help demonstrate to editorial boards across the country that people in their own communities are concerned about climate change.   

    We also encourage you to mention that you are a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who has long recognized the impact of climate change on the poorest countries of the world.  If you would like additional assistance, please contact our media consultant, Mike Kiernan, at mkiernan.media@gmail.com. Mike stands ready to help. 

    Please let us know when the letter is published! RPCV4EA can help amplify your Letter to the Editor on social media, and share it with your Members of Congress. 

     

    Sample Letter to the Editor 

    To the editor:

    RE: Headline of news article mentioning recent weather event, with date and page where story appeared. (Such as this example: “Climate change behind wildfires, experts say,” Sept 22, page 1) 

    As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, who served in (country) in (years served), I have long worried about the impact of climate change on the poorest of the poor in my country of service and around the world.  But this summer I have become just as concerned about the impact of climate change on my own family members and friends throughout the United States.  

    We see the impact of climate change everywhere: record heat waves in many states this summer, huge wildfires on the west coast, a seemingly endless series of powerful hurricanes battering the Gulf Coast, Florida and the east coast. Experts tell us that the rise in sea-levels is accelerating and that there’s little chance that the excessive heat, wild fires and extreme weather will correct themselves on their own. . 

    As we get closer to the Nov. 3 elections, candidates running for Congress need to recognize climate change as a very real threat to our security and way of life. We need to deal with climate change immediately and look for solutions that are practical and straightforward.  

    The bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763) (add link https://citizensclimatelobby.org/energy-innovation-and-carbon-dividend-act/), legislation supported by Citizens’ Climate Lobby and many members of Congress, would create a fee based on burning carbon based fuels. This fee, collected from the fossil fuel industry, would be distributed to American families equally via a monthly dividend. It’s a reasonable approach that is good for families, the economy, and the environment. Economists feel that such a fee is the fastest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to safe levels.

    Raising the price of fossil fuels while returning the funds raised to American families will lower fossil-fuel consumption thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, clean the air, boost the economy, and create clean-energy jobs. Let’s get serious about climate change before it’s too late. 

     September 23, 2020
  • Meredith Miller Vostrejs posted an article
    Our Peace Corps Action Team participation in the CCL Conference and lobby days was a success! see more

    On Saturday, December 5th, during the first day of the Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL) December Conference, Paul Thompson, Dylan Hinson and Brady Fergusson staffed the RPCV4EA Peace Corps Action Team (PCAT) virtual table during two tabling sessions. They spoke with conference attendees about PCAT's target Congressional Districts in 2021 and the upcoming Kiss the Ground screening. Ten people showed interest in joining the team and most of them were RPCVs!

    Through CCL, PCAT has been advocating for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R.763) and will also look for other climate change legislation (e.g. legislation like the Climate Displaced Person's Act) to include in advocacy efforts.

     

    PCAT has selected the following districts (see below) to target in 2021, based on encouraging bipartisan support of climate change legislation. If you live in any of these districts please email Brady Fergusson to get involved.

     

    Congressional District

    Member's Name (Last, First)

    KY-06

    Barr, Andy

    OH-01

    Chabot, Steven

    PR-01

    González-Colón, Jennifer

    LA-06

    Graves, Garret

    AS-01

    Radewagen, Aumua Amata Coleman

    FL-04

    Rutherford, John

    IN

    Braun, Mike

    MS

    Wicker, Roger

    MS

    Hyde-Smith, Cindy

    LA

    Cassidy, Bill

    TX

    Cornyn, John

     

    PCAT members also participated in CCL lobby meetings the week following the conference. In addition to meeting with their own Representatives, Brady Fergusson and Dylan Hinson met with staff of the Congressional Offices of American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. It was especially beneficial to have two RPCVs in the American Samoa meeting, as Congresswoman Radewagen is a strong Peace Corps supporter and the legislative aide we spoke to is an RPCV. We hope to build on that common ground to move climate change legislation forward. And we hope to get more RPCVs involved with lobbying in the new year!

    Missed the conference? Don’t worry! You can view videos from the conference online here.  Our PCAT team leaders suggest viewing the opening plenary session and  CCL’s Legislative Strategy & Lobby Day Prep. 

     

    Videos from the conference, including the opening plenary, are available online

     

    Below Mike Roman shares memorable moments gathered during some of the sessions:

    Motivational Climate Presentations: How do we talk about climate change without the doom and gloom of statistics and facts? How do we bring people into our narrative? How do we inspire action? All of these questions and more were answered in the workshop. Key in doing all three were highlighting your personal narrative with humor and direct action. YiFei Huang presented, explaining her awakening to the climate crisis, involvement with CCL, and finishing with a call to her representative’s voicemail - encouraging him to support the Energy innovation Carbon Dividend Act. Easy as 1, 2,3.

    Creating a Welcoming Space for Diverse Members: 2020 provided many pivotal moments of diversity awareness and need for action within CCL. In 2017, Karina Ramirez began volunteering with the organization. Not seeing any Spanish language materials or outreach, she inquired about other populations. Today, she is the Diversity Outreach Manager, assisting new groups of diversity have a voice, including LGBTQ, Black, Indigenous, Asian, and People of Color. CCL, as an organization, recognizes the strength of the organization comes from an inclusive and diverse participation. Leaders of the diverse communities spoke and shared what their groups were doing.

    State Break Out Meeting: All states held break out meetings. Highlighting congressional member’s stances, backgrounds, and recent moves - many meetings used this time to strategize and talk about their upcoming congressional meetings.

    You’re invited to learn more and join the PCAT team here

  • Meredith Miller Vostrejs posted an article
    Jeb offers insight into his GOTV activism, and ways you can best determine yours! see more

     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.

     September 19, 2020
  • Caitlin Dickson posted an article
    Learn about RPCV4EAs involvement with Citizens' Climate Lobby and how we interact with Congress. see more

    Bringing Advocacy Action to the Environment: Webinar Link

    Did you miss the webinar on October 9, Bringing RPCV Advocacy to the Environment? Read on to get the details, and listen to the recording to find out what actions you can take.

    The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) network is deeply engaged in advocacy for Peace Corps, with the powerful leadership of the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA). Many affiliate groups take that to other levels, with advocacy on issues covering the environment, health, refugees, multicultural understanding, LGBTQ, and more at national and local levels. In addition, a wide number of individuals have formed nonprofits, advocacy groups, or become involved in national campaigns on these issues and more. Service work is not a new idea for RPCVs. Once a volunteer, always a volunteer.

    We are pleased to have hosted an NPCA-supported webinar on October 9, 2019, moderated by Brady Fergusson (RPCV Kiribati 2006-2008) and presented by Brett Cease, Citizen's Climate Lobby (CCL) Volunteer Education and Engagement Coordinator. 

    The webinar was a discussion of our work with Citizen's Climate Lobby and their laser-focused effort to combat climate change through legislative action in the U.S. Congress. The House bill is H.R.763, and is known as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). Watch the webinar and get an overview of other carbon reduction legislative acts that are underway, for example, the Green New Deal and its variations. How can RPCV individuals and groups get involved? Why should we?

    Brett's expert presentation was followed by a Q&A session. Brady presented action steps to engage your NPCA affiliate group in advocacy work for the environment:

    • Ask your Board to endorse H.R.763.
    • Contact Brady to let him know when that has been done.
    • We will take it to the next levels of engaging NPCA and all affiliate groups, and spread the message to the RPCV community.

    We need to step up the pressure on Congress to take climate change seriously. 

    In addition to listening to the recording, you may be interested in reviewing this information referenced in the presentation itself:

    If you have questions, we encourage you to contact us!

    For the planet,

    Brady Fergusson, bradyf585@gmail.com

    Kate Schachter, info@rpcv4ea.org

  • Caitlin Dickson posted an article
    Read how RPCVs celebrate Earth Day today and everyday, and learn about our involvement with CCL! see more

    History and ideas from RPCVs for Environmental Action

    By Kate Schachter

    It began as a teach-in on the environment. After years of attempting to influence Congress to take action for environmental reforms, Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, turned to the American public: With actions nationwide, it was time to raise awareness of environmental crises across the country. 

    On April 22, 1970, more than 20 million people across the nation took part in events large and small: students and teachers, mothers and children, scientists and farmers, labor union members and politicians of all stripes. The day was supposed to be a one-off. Instead, it became known as Earth Day—and it marked the beginning of what became known as the “Environmental Decade.” It was a grassroots movement—with some key organizers offering guidance, including RPCV Bryce Hamilton (Guatemala 63–65).

    Read more...

    Bryce Hamilton, 1970. Photo courtesy Bryce Hamilton.

     

  • "It’s really frightening. They say that we’re going to be swallowed by water." see more

    Though the process will be gradual, Kiribati can expect to become uninhabitable due to coastal erosion and fresh water contamination as early as 2050. More than 60% of Kiribati’s population is under the age of 30 and young people like Rupee, who make up the vast majority of Kiribati’s population, may be the last generation to live on these islands.

    For the Island Nation of Kiribati, the time to act on climate change is now. In as little as 50 years Kiribati may be entirely submerged under water. Hear from the last generation to be raised on these islands as they reflect on their hopes and fears for the fate of their home, their culture, and their survival as a people.

    The video is  available for free on Vimeo.

    A compelling photo-essay is available, also for free, at Mashable.

     

  • Is ocean industrial noise a problem for marine life? see more

    The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) won two awards for its co-produced documentary, Sonic Sea, in Outstanding Nature Documentary and Outstanding Music and Sound, at the 38th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards on October 1. And we now have the ability to view the film for free on VImeo. Enter promotion code SONICSEE for free, permanent viewing.

    From the NRDC email announcement:


    Sonic Sea is a first on a number of fronts. The film is the first to so comprehensively document the horrible damage that industrial ocean noise from sonar, commercial shipping, seismic testing, and oil and gas drilling is doing to whales and other marine life — a problem not well known to the public. And we knew we had to find a way to depict the natural sounds — sounds most humans never hear — that these majestic creatures depend on for their survival.

    So we created a series of animations and graphics that visually represent the ocean's sonic landscape — developing sequences at once beautiful and also grounded in scientific fact. And they are matched by a rich and immersive sound design.

    Sonic Sea has already helped:

    • Spur the release of NOAA's long-delayed ocean noise strategy
    • Convince the Canadian government to commit to reduce shipping noise in key habitats
    • Inspire General Electric to help develop an industry consortium to reduce shipping noise
    • Strengthen the fight against seismic blasting off the mid-Atlantic and southeast coasts

       

    See the press release here

    But more importantly, view the film for free on VImeo. Enter promotion code SONICSEE for free, permanent viewing.

     

     

     

  • Lila Holzman posted an article
    RPCV4EA leadership member, Lila Holzman, responds to the reporter in Spanish and makes news in Spain see more

    [This article by Pablo Linde was originally published online in El Pais.]

    More than 900 marches in 100 countries have called for action against global warming.

    Practice your Spanish here! The key quote from RPCV4EA team leader, Lila Holzman, is “We want to see action. We know that climate change is important and now is the time to act. Since national level politics won’t step up, there are others that should, like companies and investors.”


    No es casualidad que San Francisco sea estos días el epicentro mundial de la lucha por el clima. Tres años después del histórico acuerdo de París para poner coto al calentamiento global, a dos de que entre en vigor y de que Estados Unidos lo abandone oficialmente, la Cumbre de Acción contra el Cambio Climático, que comienza la semana que viene, será un espaldarazo de la sociedad civil a los gobiernos para que se muevan en la dirección correcta. Y, ya de paso, un tirón de orejas al presidente Donald Trump en casa. Como aperitivo, este sábado más de 900 marchas en casi un centenar de países han reclamado un liderazgo real contra el calentamiento global.

    Miles de personas procedentes de medio mundo se movilizaron en el corazón de San Francisco bajo el lema Levántate por el clima, los empleos y la justicia. Indígenas guardianes de los bosques amazónicos, nativos norteamericanos, abuelas preocupadas por el mundo que le dejan a sus nietos, jóvenes que se querellan contra la Administración, veganos, naturistas, partidos verdes estadounidenses y del extranjero y, sobre todo, muchos ciudadanos concernidos por el problema se sumaron a una marcha festiva que terminó junto al Ayuntamiento de la ciudad.

    Trump nos pide que nos retiremos, nosotros contraatacamos; Hagamos América verde de nuevo; Hagamos la paz y no el cambio climático; Los combustibles fósiles nos están matando; No al fracking; El cambio climático es un problema racial; No a Trump, no al carbón. Solo son algunas de las decenas de consignas y cánticos que se leían y oían en la marcha de California.

    “Ojalá Trump nos vea, pero tenemos que buscar soluciones que trasciendan a nuestro presidente, porque no se toma el problema muy en serio”, explicaba Seneca Wolmen, de la organización californiana Amazon Watch. Lila Holzman, activista de los Cuerpos de Paz de EE UU, profundizaba en esta idea: “Esperamos ver acción. Casi todos sabemos que el cambio climático es importante y ahora es tiempo de hacer cosas. Si a nivel nacional la política no reacciona, hay otros que sí pueden hacerlo, así como las empresas y los inversores”.

    Precisamente, uno de los motivos de la cumbre, que se celebrará del 10 al 12 de septiembre, es unir a sociedad civil, empresas y gobiernos regionales y locales para que tomen su parte de responsabilidad, impulsen acciones y muestren lo que están haciendo para luchar contra el cambio climático. En una semana que estará llena de reuniones y anuncios, saldrán a la luz numerosos estudios que aportarán más datos científicos para hora de abordar el problema del calentamiento global; está previsto que grandes empresas hagan públicas medidas de calado, inversiones verdes; ciudades de todo el mundo compartirán sus logros y desafíos.

    Los actores Harrison Ford y Alec Baldwin, el músico Rocky Dawuni, el exvicepresidente de Estados Unidos Al Gore, el exsecretario de Estado John Kerry y la conservacionista Jane Goodall serán algunas de las caras conocidas que se sumarán a este llamado a tomar acción por el clima.

     September 09, 2018
  • Lila Holzman advocates for Peace Corps and the Planet see more

    Group member Lila Holzman was recently featured in an NPCA blog about the importance of advocating for Peace Corps. Lila is a member of the Northern California Peace Corps Association (NorCal), and also on the Leadership Team of the RPCVs for Environmental Action.

    Northern California Peace Corps Association (NorCalPCA) Advocacy Coordinator, Lila Holzman, recalls how, after several moves, two failed Peace Corps invitations and a year and a half, she was finally able to serve in a Sustainable Agriculture program in Panama in 2012. Her pre-service journey was a significant challenge leading up to her Peace Corps service. Read More...