Defend Our Future Temple University members table Monday through Thursday on Pollett Walk near 12th Street, encouraging student passers-by to “vote with climate.”
“Do you care about climate change?” the members will ask students.
Defend Our Future, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing climate solutions and clean energy, encourages students to consider the environment when voting in the upcoming midterm elections. Nationally, Defend Our Future is a project of the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Temple chapter operates as an affiliate of Defend Our Future Pennsylvania, which is based in Philadelphia.
For the rest of October, the group will strictly focus on pledging students to vote and sharing candidate information. Beginning Oct. 31, the organization will host Get Out to Vote activities.
Junior political science major and French minor Luke DeTore is vice president of Defend Our Future Temple, and believes “you can’t talk enough” about climate change. He said the effects of climate change are always progressing.
“With the United Nations climate report that came out last week, it’s more important now than ever to get more people to be aware about the issue if they’re not, and get people that are aware of the issue to act on it,” DeTore said. “It’s constant. No matter whether you’re talking about it or not, it keeps moving.”
According to a 2018 Pew Research Public Policy Priorities survey, 56 percent of U.S. adults ages 18 to 29 said that climate change should be a top priority for the President Donald Trump administration and Congress, while 40 percent of Americans ages 50 to 64 shared that same priority.
“There’s been a lot of surveys done that [say] a lot of millennials think climate change is a defining issue of our time, and I tend to think that way myself,” DeTore said. “Since we’re the largest voting bloc, we need to be the people that are making our voices heard and not standing back and letting people that don’t believe in science or climate change vote and affect the policies that last until we’re their age.”
Junior political science major and environmental studies minor Amani Reid, the community service chair of the Temple University Black Law Students Association, spoke at Defend Our Future’s Vote Climate Press conference Oct. 4 at the Rad Dish Cafe.
Defend our Future Temple invited Reid to be a panelist at the conference’s Youth Voting Roundtable, which discussed the potential for the millennial generation to vote in candidates with climate protection plans.
The panel discussed the challenges facing climate change policy with Trump’s administration in office, like the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan and rollback of the Clean Cars Standards, which aimed to decrease U.S. carbon emissions.
State Representative for the 182nd district Brian Sims and Michelle Heinlein, legislative assistant to State Senator Sharif Street also joined the panel to talk about environmental protection in the upcoming midterms, which has not been a top issue among federal and local candidates.
“We had Rep. [Brian] Sims stretch the importance of environmental issues in Pennsylvania — clean air and clean water,” Reid said. “I liked connecting with [Defend Our Future]. I’ve always seen them on campus during elections and I think they’re very active students that are…very passionate. It’s a great thing.”
Colin Pepper, the Philadelphia Metro Director for Defend Our Future PA, manages the day-to-day operations and event planning on Temple’s and Drexel’s campuses.
“We ask that [students] value climate issues and make the right choice on climate,” Pepper said.
Pepper said the group prepares students who pledge to vote based on climate concerns for election day, aiming to increase voter turnout in the Temple community.
“When students don’t vote, it’s more often than not because no one has asked them to vote or they don’t know how,” Pepper said. “We see ourselves as a group that works to solve those problems and ask students to vote and take part in the democracy, as well as give them the resources they need to make their choices.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Deputy City Editor Will Bleier is an organizing fellow for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. He took no part in the editing or reporting of this article. Deputy Campus Editor Alyssa Biederman previously canvassed for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. She took no part in the editing or reporting of this article.