Overwhelming local support for a nonbinding ballot initiative indicates that a push for a greener future may have legs.
On November 4, the "Secure Green Future" initiative that appeared on ballots in 11 Massachusetts House districts proposed legislation that would phase out tax incentives for energy-gobbling projects, reward small businesses that practice energy conservation, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in Massachusetts by 80 percent by the year 2020. Out of the nearly 200,000 votes cast for the initiative, 81.4 percent were "yes" votes.
"It's certainly possible to make these reductions by 2020," says Eli Beckerman, the communications director for the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party. "It's becoming clearer and clearer that it's necessary. But how can we make that a political reality? We're trying to change the conversation about the level of urgency."
"I think it's really exciting to see how strongly the public wants to move forward on the economy and, at the same time, to really preclude the climate and the fuel catastrophes that are waiting in the wings," says Jill Stein, a board member on the Committee for a Secure Green Future. "This was not a big-budget item. Our total expenses came in the range of $1000. There was really a diffused network of people here, working on the strength of their convictions, and their interest at the community level at solving the economy."
Nonbinding ballot initiatives are often used by organizations to galvanize voters; election results from these initiatives also can serve as leverage when lobbying for particular legislation, which is part of the Committee for a Secure Green Future's game plan. They hope to prompt lawmakers to focus on a greener local economy, with emphasis on increased local food and fuel production.
"We can have a continued dialogue with our elected officials, because now we can really drive home that there is public support," says Stein. "We characterize this as a triple win: a green economic stimulus package, an insurance policy against the shock waves to the economy and the environment, and it's also a prevention policy — prevention against chaos."
The committee is soliciting a statewide petition — viewable on securegreenfuture.org — to Massachusetts citizens who didn't vote on the nonbinding initiative.