Tag Archives: environment

This is What Happens When More than 400,000 Enthusiastic Advocates Rally Together to Save Our Planet

The following blog is written by Toni Zimmer, President, League of Women Voters of New Jersey.

You Make Friends…

ToniFrom the moment I stepped onto the bus chartered by the Sierra Club, I knew this was going to be an extraordinary day. How could it not? Our bus captain was Susan Williams, President of the Highlands Chapter of the Sierra Club. Susan is a dynamic woman who never seems to run out of energy. She’s also a very dedicated advocate for just about every environmental cause you can imagine. We smiled as she checked my name off on the roster, and I found an empty seat next to Michele Guttenberger. Like me, Michele is a member of the LWV of Sussex Highlands. She is also the president of AAUW-Sussex. We really never had the chance to chat in earnest. In fact, we hardly knew each other. Little did I know that Michele and I would end up spending the entire day and a good part of the evening practically joined at the hip. Literally! I’ll explain later.

It took us about one hour to reach the Lincoln Tunnel and make our way ClimateMarchthrough the darkness and into the brilliant sunlight of the city. There was another Sierra Club chartered bus leaving from Morris County, and my friend, LWVNJ VP of Advocacy, Nancy Hedinger was on it. I gave her a call.  “Are you there yet?” I asked, “Yes. We’re here,” she said. “I’m on West 84th between Central Park West & Amsterdam Avenue.” Good thing I had worked in the city for many years before moving to New Jersey, so I knew just where to find her once we arrived.  “Okay,” I told her, “We’ll see you soon!”  The bus meandered its way through heavy traffic as we headed uptown. People on the bus were beginning to speak just a little bit louder, their voices a tiny bit higher. We were getting excited. I turned to Michele and said, “I feel like a kid – ‘Are we there yet?’” We laughed.

You Ride the Subway…

We finally arrived at our destination, and Susan was busy giving us last minute instructions on where the buses would be parked once the March was over. “Please mClimate Marchake sure you get back to 23rd St. and 11th Avenue by 4 p.m. everyone. Okay?”  We all replied in unison. “Okay,” and then we shrieked and gave Susan and our bus driver a loud round of applause. Now, I was anxious to meet up with some of the League members I knew were going to be there. We met Nancy a short while later, and she left us to meet her daughter who would also be joining in on the March. We said goodbye, and that was the last time we saw each other. Sigh.

climatemarch3It seemed sensible to take the subway to travel from 86th Street downtown to 66th Street, one of the main staging areas for the March. It was almost 10:30 a.m. and the March was scheduled to start at 11. Michele and I bought a metro card and took the subway downtown to 72nd Street. It was humid outside, but the subway car was air conditioned and we were loving it. “Nice,” said Michele, “I would never have imagined.” When we stepped off of the subway and made our way to the street, we were in awe of the magnitude of people, some already lined up within the wide margin solely cordoned off for those who were ready to march. Others crammed together on the sidewalk and strained against each other in the side streets, angling for position to make headway toward the coveted center margin area where they would eventually be part of the march. “Wow,” was all I could say. I looked around at the endless sea of faces, listened to the constant tune of chatter and chanting, and I knew. We wouldn’t be marching together with Rosalee Keech, or Ellie Gruber, or Ann Armstrong, or…well, you get it. But we were all there. United and connected as kindred spirits. Ready to represent the League of Women Voters as one, to show our support to the world for this historical effort.

You Feel the Goodness…

This was turning into something bigger than I could have ever imagined. I had ClimateMarch6been to events, rallies, last year’s March on Washington. But this was different in so many ways. There were people here who were so like-minded, and they had no personal agendas, other than to see to it that they, their families, and the future generations of our planet would have a chance to survive. And they were determined to march for more than two miles beneath the glare of the hot sun to prove it. Believe me, it’s very warm when you are in such close proximity to other human beings — elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder, back to stomach. These were good people, and we were all there for the same reason. Yes, I felt the goodness that day. But I missed meeting up to prepare to march with the rest of our League members.

ClimateMarch8“So,” I asked Michele, “What do you want to do now?” We were both feeling as though the March was not happening soon enough. Police officers stood guard around the perimeter of the barricades that separated the people who were lined up and ready to march, from those who were packed in on the outside – observing or, in some cases, begging the police to move the barricades aside to let them in. “Let’s take some pictures,” she said. And so we did. We took pictures of colorful banners and people with signs that spoke of the horrors in store if we didn’t bring about change.

But then, I noticed that we were beyond being “caught up” in the moment. We were, literally, caught up in the crowd. Outside of the marching perimeter, people were well-meaning, but they wanted to get closer to the street and were pressing us toward the barrier and we could barely move. At that point, I looked at Michelle and said, “I think I’m done for now.” She nodded her head, “Fine.” As it turned out, we had to call on a police officer to ask him to move a barricade to let us through to an “off-limits” space, so we could walk down and exit out of the area. At first, he said he couldn’t do it. I pointed to my button and sign. “I’m the president of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey,” I told him, “You can trust me – We’re honest people, and we won’t jump the line.”  He pulled back the barricade and let us through.

You Feel Human…climatemarch8

Michele and I had something to eat, and then we went back to join the crowd. We didn’t see any celebrities or famous politicians that day. We missed spotting Sting, Mayor DiBlasio, and Leonardo DiCaprio. The truth is, the people carrying the signs, the ones who chanted and walked for miles with hope and conviction in their hearts and smiles on their faces, those were the true stars. Each one a unique part of humankind that made the People’s Climate March so special. I’m truly grateful to have been a part of that and truly grateful to be a part of an organization that recognizes combating climate change as a top priority. I hope you will join our efforts as we go forward and join the League today.

People’s Climate March: March with the League!

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey, the League of Women Voters of the United States, and other Leagues around the country are participating in the People’s Climate March on Sunday, September 21. The March will bring together citizens from across the country and around the world from different backgrounds all with an interest in elevating the conversation around climate change.

People's Climate MarchThe League is excited to be a part of this historic event. League supporters wishing to attend the March can find resources for arranging for transportation on buses or trains that are being arranged by attendees from around the country. You can also follow news and information leading up to and live from the event on social media using the hashtag #PeoplesClimate. Sign-up to attend the People’s Climate March or find out more about how you can get involved!

Over 1,000 organizations will gather just north of Columbus Circle in New York City and begin marching at 11:30 am on September 21. Attendees are encouraged to bring signs, banners, and flags containing positive messages regarding the need to move forward in the fight for climate change. Attendees are also encouraged to wear t-shirts displaying the name of their organization or locality where they are from. A full page of logistical information including an overview of the march route is available.

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey will be joining up with the League of Women Voters of New York City. We will meet up at the Women’s group assembling area to be announced on the People’s Climate March website soon. Look for the League banner and a helium balloon of the earth.  LWVNJ President, Toni Zimmer is attending. Please email her at tzimmer@twgpower.com to let her know that you plan on attending.

Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport

The following was written by Vishali Gandhi, LWVNJ summer intern.

On June 12th, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, in conjunction with several other groups, participated in a lobbying effort to promote the passage of Assembly bill 2108. A2108 would ban the treatment, disposal, processing, or discharge of fracking waste in our state (read the full text of the bill here). This effort involved directly lobbying specific members of the New Jersey Assembly to post the bill so that it could move from the committee to the floor of the legislature to be voted on. It also included a rally to raise awareness and show support for the speedy passage of the bill. This truly was the perfect opportunity as an intern and, more importantly, as an activist, because I was able to experience the democratic process first-hand, both inside and out.

The day began as I met with a number of supporters gathered outside the doors of a committee hearing in the statehouse. We were waiting for members of the Assembly to exit so that we could talk to them about A2108 and urge them to move the bill out of committee. As the hearing drew to a close, we began to speak with the members of the Assembly as they exited and I listened in as each person explained why the passage of this bill was important to them.

Despite having very busy schedules, they stayed and listened to what everyone had to say. Meeting with legislators face-to-face is a great way to get your voice heard. Elected representatives are more than happy to listen to concerns from constituents, and it is a very effective way to directly contact representatives.

Nancy Hedinger, LWVNJ VP of Advocacy, addresses the crowd

Nancy Hedinger, LWVNJ VP of Advocacy, addresses the crowd

After the committee hearing, we moved outside to the front of the State House where a sizable group was forming, all in favor of the swift passage of A2108. What I found really amazing as I looked at the crowd was its heterogeneity. There were a number of organizations present, all with different reasons for supporting the bill’s passage. There were mothers who were worried about the safety and health of their children, as well as student-powered environmental groups who believed strongly in the cause. Though the group itself was incredibly diverse, there was a singular passion that was common among everyone there. I was inspired to see that everyone had a shared goal of passing the bill and preventing disastrous ecological damage from taking place within New Jersey’s borders (read more about hydrofracking waste here).

As I listened to calls-to-action from representatives of each of the groups, as well as members of the Assembly who were in support of the bill’s passage, I thought about the importance of political participation. A2108 has been introduced and passed through both houses of the NJ legislature for several years now, but every year, the bill is vetoed by Governor Chris Christie. Members of the legislature who support the bill then attempt to override the veto, but they have not been able to do so yet.

So the question then is: what effect does lobbying actually have? Why engage in these attempts to pass a bill that may just fail? The reason for engaging in political advocacy is raising awareness and making change. The efforts of all of the people who rallied to show support for the bill may not directly result in the passage of the bill, but by making people more aware of the issue, there is more pressure on legislators to post and pass the bill. In fact, a few weeks after the lobbying effort, and after a lot of pressure from activists across the state, Assembly bill 2108 was posted and passed both houses of the NJ legislature and is now awaiting the governor’s signature. This truly was a victory for the League and all of the activists who showed support and it is a testament to the positive effects of engagement.

Activist participating in rally

Activist participating in rally in front of the State House

When people think of civic engagement, often the first thing that comes to mind is voting. While voting is undeniably an important part of civic engagement, struggle to create change and make progress; holding those representatives accountable for their actions and mistakes is the other part.

Getting involved in the political process does not necessarily mean attending every committee hearing and participating in every rally, but instead being aware of the issues and being a part of the process in whatever way you can. A good first step is to join the League of Women Voters so that you can stay up-to-date with issues affecting New Jersey citizens. The League organizes many events during the year that can help you get involved and learn more about issues that are important to you. The League’s website also has a wealth of information on different issues and events.

The New Jersey legislature’s website is another helpful resource. On it, you can find all of the bills that are being considered by the legislature, as well as previous bills. You can also find your representatives and see how they have voted on different bills. If there is an issue or a specific bill that is important to you, a great way to get your voice heard is to contact your local representative’s office by phone, email, or by mail. You can also go and sit in on a committee hearing to find out more about a bill. Schedules for committee hearings, which are open to the public, can be found here.

First Annual Pearl Schwartz Environmental Awards

The following is written by Jesse Burns, LWVNJ Director of Communications.

Recently I had the pleasure of joining the League of Women Voters of Ocean County as they honored three professionals whose work has benefited the environment. The “Pearl Schwartz Environmental Awards” is in memory of the passionate and committed work of League member Pearl Schwartz who passed away in 2010.

The reception was full of people who greatly admired both the work of Pearl and the work of the award recipients.  League member Sandy Potaski speaking of Pearl said “she best exemplified all that the League of Women Voters is about”. Sandy went on to mention that Pearl was an outspoken voice in Ocean County, attending Freeholder board meeting for over 20 years, registering voters, and encouraging residents to speak out and get involved.

It was Pearl’s passion for and commitment to the environment that led the League of Women Voters of Ocean County to honor her memory with this award ceremony.  The award recipients were William deCamp, Jr., Save Barnegat Bay, Dr. Michael Kennish, Rutgers University, and Kirk Moore, Asbury Park Press.

William deCamp, Jr.

William deCamp, Jr. is the chairman of Save Barnegat Bay, as well as a member of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. His work with the non-profit Save Barnegat Bay has been instrumental in slowing the over development that threatens the bay.

Dr. Mike Kennish

Dr. Michael Kennish is a research professor at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Science at Rutgers University and an expert on the ecology of Barnegat Bay. He is the author of many books and papers and his scientific data and expertise has led to legislation and action to conserve the bay.

Kirk Moore

Kirk Moore is a longtime environmental reporter with the Asbury Park Press. His week long series “Barnegat Bay Under Stress” was award winning and is credited with raising public awareness of the issues facing the bay.

As each of these deserving recipients spoke of their own work, as well as the work of the League, I could feel the audience becoming energized and inspired. I knew Pearl would be proud.

League of Women Voters of New Jersey demands firm commitment to clean air

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey kicked off the Clean Air Promise Campaign Tuesday in Newark. Alongside other environmental, public health, and advocacy organizations the League of Women Voters encouraged all citizens, community leaders, and elected officials to make the “Clean Air Promise”, a simple promise to safeguard the health of our children and our families through protection of the highly successful and popular Clean Air Act.  The Clean Air Promise, a national campaign, aims to protect the health of children and families across the country from dangerous air pollution.

The campaign comes at a time that some public officials have attempted to undermine the Clean Air Act and strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to limit air pollution and emission of toxics like mercury, arsenic and other dangerous substances which threaten public health.

“For too long, the debate about pollution has focused on “overregulation” and featured false assertions that environmental protections hurt our economy,” said Toni Zimmer, president of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “The fact is clean air saves lives and we must put the safety of our families and children first.”

According to a report released by the EPA, the Clean Air Act saved 160,000 lives in 2010 alone. “The EPA’s report outlines not only the health benefits of the Clean Air Act, but the economic benefits as well. In 2010 alone, the Clean Air Act prevented 13 million lost work days saving on health care costs and making for a healthier, and more productive work force,” added Zimmer.

“As the mother of three asthmatic children, I understand all too well the harmful effects of air pollution,” stated Kim Gaddy, Chair of the Newark Environmental Commission.  “I understand staying up nights with a child that can’t breathe.  We must, for the sake of our children, protect the clean air act.”

Air quality in Newark is especially poor and one in four children in the city suffers from asthma. Ana Baptista of the Ironbound Community Corporation added, “In the Ironbound we see daily reminders of the deleterious effects of toxic air pollution on our most vulnerable residents, children, and seniors. Our children grow up in an environment where they must come indoors for recess on days when there are ozone alerts and the air quality is poor. We must take a stand to protect Clean Air for the health and well being of our communities.”

However, there is still more work to be done. “Power plants are the leading source of toxic air pollution for children and families in New Jersey,” said Debbie Mans, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. “Air toxics from coal-fired power plants cause cancer, birth defects, and respiratory illness, including asthma.  We urge every citizen, public official and community leader to sign the Clean Air Promise and protect the air we breathe.”

“I encourage all New Jerseyans, including our elected officials, community leaders, and business leaders, to join with the League of Women Voters of New Jersey in making a promise to keep us all safe from toxics and pollutants. Make the promise to show your support of clean air policies and other protections that scientists and public health experts have recommended to the EPA. Visit www.peoplenotpolluters.org today and let the country know New Jersey demands clean air” concluded Zimmer.

Watch a video of Toni at the rally.

Get Involved – Join the League of Women Voters of New Jersey!

Educate. Advocate. Empower.

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey (LWVNJ) will hold our 59th Biennial Statewide Convention Saturday, April 30th at the Verizon Headquarters in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. LWVNJ is a grassroots network, directed by the consensus of its members throughout the state. Local League delegates will have the opportunity to vote on the business of the state League including program, nominations, bylaws and the budget. There will also be opportunities to discuss topics such as immigration, natural resources, voting, moderating and membership. Marcia Merrins’, LWVUS Board Member, will lead an important discussion on defending the League’s nonpartisan stance—a discussion that will be particularly useful to League moderators.

This year’s luncheon speaker is the founding editor of NJ Spotlight, John Mooney, who will speak about the present state of education in New Jersey. He has covered education issues for 15 years as a reporter for the Newark Star Ledger and Bergen Record and recently has been a contributing writer for the New York Times.

The awards ceremony will take place during the luncheon. During this time, LWVNJ will honor the service of local Leagues and the contributions of outstanding individuals, moderators, and 50-year members.

During the luncheon, there will be the raffle drawing in which three lucky ticket holders will have the chance to win a new laptop, a Kindle, or an iPad2. There is still time to purchase your raffle tickets and you do not have to attend the convention to win. The proceeds of this raffle benefit LWVNJ-EF’s mission to educate the public and promote civic participation. Tickets can be purchased online or by mailing a check made out to LWVNJ-EF Raffle, 204 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08608.

Register for the 59th Biennial Convention today! The registration deadline is Friday, April 15th. A late fee will apply after this date.

Register Online or Register by Mail.

Thank you to our Platinum Sponsor:

From Where I Sat

LWVNJ intern shares her experience and views of the Alternative Energy Conference

The following entry is written by LWVNJ intern, and new member, Mabel Duran-Sanchez and reflects her impressions of the Alternative Energy Conference.

Approximately 100 other members and non-members joined me at the Alternative Energy for New Jersey conference on Saturday, April 10. The conference was part of a continuing project led by the League of Women Voters of New Jersey Natural Resources Committee in search of enlightening and educating New Jersey on different sources of alternative energy.

The first half of the event was dedicated to the informative reports presented by the different League committees who researched geothermal, solar, nuclear, biomass, and wind alternative energy sources. These reports highlighted the economic and physical efficiency of the different sources, as well as their life expectancy and reliability, ecological compatibility, and political viability.

Throughout these presentations, a reoccurring theme was that of collaboration. There is no sole right way to produce energy efficiently while protecting our environment. Alternative energy sources are more efficient when used in combination, rather than independently.

Perhaps some of the most attention-grabbing moments of these reports included when the League of Women Voters of Ridgewood discussed how sewage sludge could be used as a means to generate energy in a waste water plant and when Kimberly E. Diamond, the representative of the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey Environmental Commission (BHEC) presented the extensive and immediate benefits of wind power. Another interesting fact that I learned during the conference was that Germany was the leader in solar energy creation. If a cloudy country like Germany had made solar energy work for them, New Jersey, which was measured second nationally for its total solar capacity, could do the same.

After the reports, the audience headed to the lunch room. While enjoying our meals, keynote speaker, Governor James J. Florio, gave a wonderful speech. Governor Florio’s charismatic personality and enthusiasm for the reports and the Leagues’ findings was exhilarating. He enlightened the audience with his executive experience, knowledge of environmental policy, and his passion for long-term development.

After lunch, Scott Minos, from the U.S. Department of Energy, presented on the importance of maximizing the productivity of the energy that is already produced. Dr. Arjun Makhijani, the president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, concluded the conference. He suggested a combination of alternative energy sources in order to create a more sustainable energy source.

It was interesting to learn how protecting our environment involves gradual changes and that it does not require a complete transformation of everything we know. The problem is whether we choose to contribute to cheap short-term development or more expensive long-term results as Governor Florio mentioned. This is what will determine environmental policy.

In addition to the wonderful things that I learned from the conference, it was truly a proud experience. It was an honor to be involved in such a wonderful project and to be around such inspirational individuals. When Governor Florio expressed his gratitude for all of the League’s deeds, I could not help but to feel grateful to be involved with such an incredible and influential group.