Knocking on Doors to Make a Difference

Knocking on Doors to Make a Difference

Last Saturday I joined my fellow Sierra Club board members as well as a few Council of Club Leaders members (leaders from Sierra Club chapters), staff and volunteers in Manassas to knock doors for Ralph Northam for Virginia Governor as well as Democrats down the ticket in key General Assembly races.


Ramon and his fellow Sierra Club canvassers.

We all met early in the morning in DC to carpool out to Manassas. On the drive up, it was clear everyone was excited to talk to Virginians about the issues they care about and affect their everyday lives like climate disruption and sea level rise. Virginia is an important swing state and is the first chance for an entire state to vote since Trump was elected. Republicans hold a razor-thin majority in the Virginia Senate and a surmountable control in the House of Delegates, making this election a crucial chance to chip away at that control and potentially retake one or both chambers.

But the governor’s race is also extremely close. It is critical to encourage Virginians to go out and vote. Canvassing in local neighborhoods like the one we did is the most effective way to engage community members about the issues that matter and convince them to vote. It is a powerful opportunity to advocate for our case, make connections to voters through face-to-face discussions, learn about the issues that are important to them and excite them about how they can be part of making a change for the better.

Dialing and knocking on the doors of strangers may not seem like the most exciting way to spend a nearly perfect-weather Saturday, but when you’re doing it for candidates you believe in and to better communities, those hundreds of dials and doors knocked are fun. Doing it surrounded by my friends and fellow Sierra Clubbers was an added bonus.


Ramon knocking on doors in Virginia.

We tend to surround ourselves with people who think like us and read news from sources that appeal to our thinking, but to canvass in a swing state like Virginia, is a reality check. While many people in  Manassas are energized for change, many others were not familiar with the pressing matters facing their communities. Canvassing presents an opportunity to talk to strangers that may not think like us but when engaging in a conversation, different perspectives are exchanged and gives us an opportunity to win an extra vote.  I had a few of those exchanges and may have convinced five people.  If a few hundred volunteers are as successful between now and the elections, this translates into a couple of thousand votes, a precinct can be swung to our favor……a county…a state…a nation. We must do this.

Being a Puerto Rican male with a thick accent when speaking English, I must admit that I was a bit worried about walking in neighborhoods where people looked different than me, especially after the divisive Charlottesville events a few weeks ago. But there are more things that unite us rather than divide us.  I spoke to mothers, fathers, grandpas, and grandmas, and those in every walk of life about their concerns on climate and environmental issues as well as others such as health care, traffic congestion, and education.  I was welcomed with respect and friendliness, even in the homes that disagreed with the views I was campaigning for.

Manassas, is a town in Northern Virginia that is home to a number of military families working in the DC Metro area or at the Naval bases in nearby Virginia Beach, or vacation in Virginia Beach. Sea level rise and extreme weather fueled by climate disruption could decimate the region. Coming from Puerto Rico, I empathized with this concern. I spoke to many people who wanted to talk about my experience in Puerto Rico or had seen the recent news about hurricane Irma. This is something that TV and social media cannot do in the same way.

Now that Puerto Ricans has been hit by another storm, Hurricane Maria, I am sure that many of the people that I spoke to in Manassas will keep me and my family in their thoughts and may help in hurricane relief, but most importantly, this might translate into votes for candidates like Ralph Northam who  knows the dangers pollution poses to our clean air and water, and why we must act on climate. They’ll hold the state to the Paris Climate Agreement, no matter what Donald Trump says. They will listen to scientists and doctors when crafting climate policy, and they’ll advocate for clean energy action.

On the drive back to DC, we may have all been tired from walking miles but we were more energized than ever. The candidates we campaigned for will protect our air, water, and climate will stand up to big polluters and will help make our world a better place.

While Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt push their pro-polluter agenda at the national level, change is happening at the local level. States and cities are making the switch to clean energy, they’re building up wind and solar power, electric vehicle infrastructure, and acting on climate.

We’ve seen it with former President Barack Obama, with climate champs in Congress, and in state and local races around the country, when we elect the right people into office, positive change can happen. With our efforts this weekend in Virginia, we hope we’ll see positive change in Virginia, too.  Please, get involved in canvassing in your local elections…we need to elect leaders that would act on climate change and commit to 100% renewable energy.

Paid for by the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club PAC.