Marking an anniversary such as this one today is a stark reminder that our American democracy is more fragile than I used to imagine.
Only a year ago today, a violent mob attacked our nation’s Capitol Building while many of us watched from home, dismayed as to what might come next. The attack came after weeks of provocation and efforts to subvert the will of the American voters. One year out from this violence, reckless provocations and anti-democratic efforts continue. Our democracy is still at risk.
Earthworks’ mission to act boldly on climate, protect the environment, and empower communities is closely intertwined with democracy. Essential for our work and the advocacy efforts of so many others are equitable participation in elections, an equal seat at the table in government decision making, and equal access to justice in fair and independent courts.
Earthworks partners with activists in other countries where speaking out for social and environmental rights puts lives and livelihoods at risk. Just weeks after the attack in Washington DC last January, our partners in Guatemala faced violence in their peaceful struggle against the proposed Escobal mine, one of many examples around the world where the threats to democracy and the environment are intertwined.
To be clear, our system of government falls short in many ways. Worst among them, systemic racism persists in inequitably distributing environmental and economic harms and benefits. Black, brown and Indigenous communities in the United States still disproportionately suffer from environmental injustice. But attempts to weaken our imperfect system moves us only further away from the equity and justice we seek.
A government of the people, by the people and for the people, as Lincoln put it–a democracy even as imperfect as ours–can never be taken for granted…nor can it be neglected. That’s why we encourage President Biden and our leaders in Congress to prioritize passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
These essential pieces of legislation will protect the freedom to vote for all Americans, stop partisan gerrymandering, limit the influence of dark money and billionaires trying to buy elections, and stop voting rules that discriminate against certain groups of voters. These are some of the strongest voter protection bills in generations, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
On the first anniversary of the attack on our nation’s Capitol Building, let us recommit to fight to protect democracy, expand rights and opportunities far-too-long withheld from many, and strive everyday to empower people in order to strengthen our democracy for all.
Partners and allies are taking action. You can find more about events and ways to speak out here.