Two groups in the bird watching community – one you’ve probably heard of and the other brand new – are working to get bird watchers to participate in the 2020 election.
Last week, on National Voter Registration Day, the National Audubon Society said in emails to members and on social media posts, “Birds can’t vote, but as one of the millions of Americans who care for them – you can. “
Audubon’s email also states, “In addition to the presidential race, there are countless state and local elections across the country this year that will have a huge impact on our communities and our birds. These decision-makers have an important influence on how laws are written and passed at all levels of government. “
Bird watchers were then asked to create a voting schedule that included links to review your voter registration, confirm your polling station and learn about early or absent votes.
Audubon also encouraged members to “triple their votes” by asking three friends to “pledge to vote for the birds this fall”.
Auk the vote
The new organization called Auk the Vote was recently created among bird watchers in the San Francisco area. It is “a grassroots project to get bird watchers wherever they live in the country to volunteer for voting efforts,” says David Robinson, one of the organizers.
The name is of course a piece with the name of the longstanding music community organization Rock the Vote. The name Auk the Vote is both clever and serious, says Robinson, “because the Great Auk was critically endangered and we don’t want other birds to go that route.”
Robinson, a high school English teacher who has been bird watching for 45 years, says, “This choice will be critical to the future of many of the species we know and love. We urgently need a President and Congress that will respect and protect birds, wildlife and the planet. “
The idea for Auk the Vote came about after a meeting of the Golden Gate Audubon Conservation Committee, he says. He and the committee chair, Laura Cremin, believed that bird watchers not only need to vote to meet conservation goals, but must also help achieve voting among people who may not be bird watchers but who support environmental concerns. This is especially true for swing states, he notes.
“We bird watchers are absolutely crazy about bird watching, but bird watchers and environmentalists in general don’t have the best voting results,” he says. “We have not turned out to be very consistent as a constituency. People will put so much energy, passion, and time into bird watching activities, but there has been no tradition of getting other bird watchers and environmentalists to vote for candidates who support birds and the environment, or fight climate change. “
Robinson and friends created the aukthevote.org website, a one-stop shop for anything related to birds and the 2020 election. The website has a long list of ways the Trump administration has endangered birds and undone longstanding environmental protections, from attempting to eviscerate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the country’s oldest conservation law – a move currently being stopped by the courts – to the U.S. withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, although research by the National Audubon Society shows 64 percent of the North American species are threatened by climate change.
Auk the Vote’s website provides bird watchers with a calendar of opportunities to participate in the Voting Effort (GOTV). There are several volunteer opportunities every day until the November 3rd election. Auk the Vote can also host online GOTV parties for local bird clubs or bird lover groups that combine phone calls or writing letters with activities like bird trivia competitions.
“We have something for everyone, whether you’re as sociable as a bushtit or as lonely as a great gray owl,” adds Robinson. “Make phone calls to potential voters from a friendly Zoom group room or write postcards in the quiet of your own home. It is important that we all get involved. “
Every Saturday in October, the group plans to hold GOTV events at the Telefonbank with special guests: artist Jenny Odell, writers Jennifer Ackerman and Jonathan Franzen, and Nate Swick from the American Birding Association, who is also a writer and podcast host.
“Every bird watcher has to vote”
“We need to restore the role of science in policymaking and the integrity of environmental agencies,” says Robinson. “We need people in office who fight climate change and protect our wild lands. That means every bird watcher must vote, get their friends to vote, and participate in the effort to get eco-friendly swing state voters to vote. If we don’t act now, the birds we love and the habitats they rely on will be irrevocably lost.
“At the national level – the Presidency, the Senate, and to some extent the House of Representatives – this election will lead to a turnout because most of the people have chosen,” he added. “This isn’t a big choice where the point is to influence the undecided. So if you know people who love birds, who love the outdoors, whether they are in their neighborhood or if it is a beautiful state park, it doesn’t matter if you know people who care, this is it the time to talk to you about it. Would you like to see how this stuff is passed down to the future? Because it’s under attack more than ever before. “
More resources for voters
League of Conservation Voters
Environmental voter project
Sierra Club promotional campaigns
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