What On Earth? Episode 4: UP students react to the 2020 election

By Molly Lowney and Jennifer Ng | November 11, 2020 7:06pm

In this episode of What on Earth? Molly and Jennifer chat with UP environmental studies students about the 2020 U.S. election.

Media Credit: Jennifer Ng / The Beacon

CNN Audio  0:00  

CNN projects Joseph R. Biden Jr. is elected the 46th President of the United States, winning the White House and denying President Trump a second term.

Jennifer Ng  0:12  

It's been a whirlwind, anxiety-filled week since the 2020 election officially started and over the weekend, Joe Biden was projected to be the winner with Kamala Harris as his vice president.

Molly Lowney  0:23  

After a week of being plugged into my phone and trying to stay updated, the map of the electoral college is burned into my brain. Having a concrete outcome is a huge relief. 

Jennifer Ng  0:35  

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is hugely relieved that Biden is the projected winner for this election. Trump has demonstrated such poor leadership skills over the past four years. And, you know, just for climate alone, Biden promises to be a much better leader for the US. 

Molly Lowney  0:52  

We've been talking about the election offline in our classes and group chats, but we wanted to take time to reflect on the election and what it means for climate issues, specifically with people from the UP community.

Jennifer Ng  1:11  

This is what on earth a podcast from the beacon where we look at current events, the lens of climate change. I'm Jennifer, 

Molly Lowney  1:17  

And I'm Molly, and welcome to our election special! 

Jennifer Ng  1:20  

Today we are talking to UP students from the Environmental Studies Department about their thoughts on the election, how it unfolded and their thoughts on Biden as the president-elect. So guys, thank you for joining us and talking with us today. Um et's go around really fast and introduce everyone.

Hannah Pickens  1:39  

Hi, my name is Hannah Pickens. I'm an environmental science student. I am a sophomore at UP. I am from a small town called Wimberley, Texas. And thank you so much for having me here. I'm really excited. 

Carlos Fuentes  1:53  

Hi. Thanks for having me. My name is Carlos Fuentes. I'm a junior at University of Portland studying environmental science. Alright, I'm here from Medford, Southern Oregon.

Katie Gomes  2:03  

My name is Katie Gomez. I'm a senior this year, studying environmental ethics and policy and sociology minor. And my hometown is Kailua, Oahu in Hawaii.

Molly Lowney  2:15  

So I guess our first question is, was this are you all first time voters in this election? And kind of how are you watching the election slash getting the election results throughout the last week?

Katie Gomes 2:27  

I'll go ahead. This is my first time being able to vote for president. The 2016 election, I turned 18, two days after the election. So I just missed the cutoff. So it was exciting, I think to be able to actually vote and get involved with it. And I mean, this past week, I pretty much was watching CNN, like, non stop the entire week. Like I don't think I've ever watched that much news. But yeah, it was also interesting, because I mean, news can be everywhere now. I was listening to it, like at the gym, on Snapchat, like pretty much anywhere on your phone and TV. It was really easy to like stay up-to-date with everything that was happening.

Carlos Fuentes  3:04  

Yeah, I second that. Definitely. I felt like I was just glued to the TV downstairs for like three days straight. And I was just always checking my phone even when there was literally nothing happening. I felt like I couldn't like get away from it, or else I would miss something really important.

Hannah Pickens  3:17  

Yeah, me too. I was a first time voter this year also. And I I didn't watch the news as much, but I definitely like on my computer and on my phone. I had two different sources. And I was constantly like refreshing them for like, from Wednesday at four o'clock to Friday, just like non stop.

Jennifer Ng  3:35  

I totally feel that Hannah. Non stop never wanting to be away from my phone for too long. Otherwise, I'm going to miss out on something. And as you were watching the election unfold, what were you thinking? Because we know that the process took a long time to come to this final decision. What was your feeling like Tuesday night when we you know it was looking like there wasn't going to be a solid result.

Carlos Fuentes  4:01  

I was stressed. I know that I felt like I had been hearing that Biden was gonna win by a lot like it wasn't even gonna be close like Tuesday night I was gonna find out, be happy by the end of the night. But then, you know, that wasn't the case. And you know, there's the whole thing was like mailing voters like coming in late and so that's obviously you know why that happened, but it was just so stressful. And I was just really hoping at least for environmental policy that that wasn't going to be the final result.

Hannah Pickens  4:27  

Yeah, on Tuesday night especially I was watching because that was the night that Texas was called. And I was really really excited because I really thought that Texas was gonna go blue and I like shook on it with my housemates. I was like if Texas goes blue, I will get a tattoo of Texas. I have like a signed piece of paper on my fridge proving that I would do it like I was fully convinced that that was what was gonna go down and then they call it Texas by the end of the night. I was like, and then I just like I didn't even know what to think like I was I really thought Texas was gonna go blue and that was gonna solve. Oh, well like I thought that was gonna do it because Texas has so many electoral college votes. But after Tuesday night, I was like, I have no idea what's about to happen. And I was really, really stressful. But I was really hopeful on Tuesday. 

Katie Gomes 5:11  

Yeah, I was like, in that same boat, and I was trying to like, remember, and remind myself because I'd heard all the projections were like Tuesday night, it was going to be heavily like red and Trump and then with the mail-ins, then it would start going to Biden, but like when you're in it, and you just see state after state, just with crazy amounts of leads. It was like nerve racking. And I just like, I was like, should I just stay up all night? Which like, luckily, I didn't, because then you'd be staying up for like, the whole week. But yeah, it was definitely pretty, pretty scary the first time, but I just try to remind myself like this, what they said was gonna happen. It’s okay.

Molly Lowney  5:46  

So I think in terms of evaluating both candidates, and like your feelings as environmental studies, students watching this election, what did climate mean to you, with this election? Like what was at stake?

Katie Gomes 6:01  

I mean, I think it was huge, like, just seeing over the past four years, like what can happen to an entire country's policy and approach to climate change. And just like, the public belief, that's then, you know, encouraged to doubt climate change. And we're still like, questioning the reality of it when, like, the reality is, like, we need to be doing like, a lot right now to be able to make a difference. Um, so yeah, I think Biden becoming president is a big step in that direction, I definitely don't think it's going to be a guarantee now that like, everything solved, you know, like, it's a huge win. But there's still like, so much to then do from here. 

Because it's like, it's, I'm kind of reminding myself, it was like, settle for Biden, you know, it's not like Biden was like, the saving grace. I mean, he was the saving grace from Trump. But now it's like, okay, now we need to work even more to be able to get actual progress in these like crucial years, to be able to avoid disastrous consequences even more. So.

Carlos Fuentes  7:08  

Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I feel like another four years of Trump would have just led to so much more, it would have really shifted the public's perspective on like, you know, is climate change, like really happening? And when there's already been four years of, sort of doubt being put into our minds, even though, you know, us as environmental science students, like, we know the facts, we've studied the history and the context and all of that. And I think another four years would have just separated the public from that knowledge and just created a lot more uncertainty around it. And hopefully, you know, having Biden with these really clear and, yeah, really ambitious. Missions should hopefully help a little bit.

Hannah Pickens  7:45  

Yeah, Biden's stance on climate change and environmental policy was the thing that I felt best about when I was voting for him. Because he doesn't have a super, like Katie said, like, he's not the ideal candidate for like, LGBTQ rights, or bipoc populations, like this man is not, um, he was a saddle for sure. But whenever I was voting for him, I was like, at least he will, like for sure. Do some good work on environmental policy, hopefully.

Jennifer Ng  8:17  

Yeah, definitely. I think I also agree that his like, especially in comparison to Trump, his climate plan is definitely a step in the right direction for the country. On Saturday, November 7, the election was called in favor for Biden, and he is now our president elect with Kamala Harris as our VP elect. So what are you guys hoping to see from this administration regarding climate, like concrete things? And what do you anticipate could be problems as to making those things happen?

Carlos Fuentes 8:49  

I mean, Biden has promised so much and you know, his big, like, the Biden plan is ensuring that the US gets to a 100% clean energy economy by no later than 2050. And, you know, part of that is going to be his promise to invest, like almost $2 trillion into, you know, communities and private sector and, you know, local investments and that kind of thing. So I think a big part of is just gonna be, you know, whether I can get through Congress and whether these bills are actually going to be, you know, possible to pass you know, with such a divided house.

Katie Gomes  9:20  

Yeah, I think it'll be definitely interesting with the runoff to see what majority type setup will be in Congress to see just how many of these plants will be able to be followed through on and I think, a big thing that I'm, I mean, I would wish to see and I'm hoping to see whether or not it's going to happen, probably unlikely, but just like more moving away from corporations, kind of running politics in this country and like just the this constant like prioritization of capitalism and protecting these corporations, which was very much like Trump's approach to it.

So hopefully, I mean, if we could start moving away from that, and like less focus on oil companies, the agriculture, big agriculture industry, and just more prioritization and protecting of like actual people. I know I was reading his plan last night and he, they talked a lot about environmental justice and focusing specifically on righting the wrongs of the communities that have been impacted the most, and kind of like prioritizing getting them into these jobs that will be coming up with like, clean energy and all their other plans. So that that made me hopeful, and hopefully, that they, they can follow through on all of those.

Carlos Fuentes  10:43  

reading his plan definitely made me a lot more hopeful, especially when it comes to just environmental justice and helping those communities that you know, are low income and just kind of disenfranchised, I know, to the areas that he really wants to focus on in those communities are air pollution and water pollution, both of which are, you know, huge, and I'm just really hopeful that he'll actually, you know, put his actions to where his words have been.

Molly Lowney  11:05  

Has this election impacted the career path you see yourself pursuing? Like, do you see yourself going more down like a policy path? Or do you feel like you're going to stick more to the science side?What are the areas you think you're needed? Most after like, looking at this election?

Carlos Fuentes  11:26  

Really good question. Honestly, I hadn't really thought about that. But just the fact that Biden is planning on starting, he has so many initiatives, and like different councils and different like groups that he wants to start and, you know, that needs a lot, a lot of support. So I think I'm kind of leaning towards policy, to be honest, I think it just makes sense to, you know, be a part of these new groups that are forming versus, you know, the Trump administration who's, you know, taking all of these away. And I think it just makes a lot of sense so that we can avoid having, you know, someone in office that doesn't believe in climate change.

Katie Gomes 11:56  

Yeah, I agree. I think I mean, there's definitely gonna be way more opportunities than if the next four years were Trump again. So, yeah, I think it'll be way easier finding a job in any type of environmental field. I'm still trying to decide on what route I want to go, specifically. And I think, I mean, even if you don't go like policy, like, to the specifics, you know, like in a government type design, you could still be very politically active, whether it be working for like a grassroots company, a nonprofit, something like that. Yeah, you can still make a lot of political change through that.

Hannah Pickens 12:36  

Yeah, I think for me personally, like, I am still focused on the science, honestly, whenever I like, consider, I was like, What am I going to do in the next four years if Trump gets reelected, I was like, if there's no jobs, like worst case scenario, I just become a firefighter because God knows there's gonna be more wildfires. But now that he's not, I think I'm going to do something more along the lines of like Katie said, like working for a grassroots organization or doing research, just because I think that that's, I mean, if those jobs, those jobs will be open, presumably. And I think that's where I would be best suited.

Jennifer Ng  13:16  

Yeah, I think outreach is going to be super important in these next couple years. I want to go kind of into like, science communication, I guess it's called, or finding some way to get like, the public side and the science side more in touch, I guess. Because if the public isn't understanding what the scientists are saying, then we're all kind of at a moot point. Either that or like some kind of education. But yeah, I think just getting the public in tune with what we know, it's gonna be really critical to getting public support for anything we want to do. 

As environmental studies students, we are all exposed to all of this on a regular basis, how would you encourage other students and other people to get involved and be active in, you know, environmental science and these new initiatives? How would you encourage people to take action and keep accountable or help keep the new administration accountable?

Hannah Pickens 14:23  

I mean, I would say for other students, like, if you're not an environmental studies major, you should consider taking an environmental studies class. Like I learned a lot just in my ENB one or whatever class my freshman year. And that was like, really, really integral in me like changing my diet and changing some of my lifestyle habits. And even if that's not directly getting involved in the political process, it's a really, really good first step for students.

Katie Gomes  14:49  

Yeah, I would agree with that, like just basic environmental science classes can be really helpful. Just because when you know, like when you have some of the facts and some of the actual information and you know it personally, it makes me much more confident then going out and trying to do more on the issue. If you have a good understanding yourself and motivation as to like, why we should be doing these things, and then that will probably help you get out there and however you would want to take the next step, whether it be, you know, protesting, making personal changes, however else, you'd want to keep this Biden administration accountable. I mean, I think a lot of it is just going to be continued interest on the matter, just so they, they can see that the public does care about it and that it's something that we want from them. Because yeah, I definitely think we need to use our personal training to be able to like, advocate for something bigger, since so much of it is problems just directly from corporations and not personal problems. So yeah, I think demanding that over the next four years will be really big.

Carlos Fuentes 16:00  

Yeah, I second, all of that, definitely. Taking an intro like environmental science class, would be really, really helpful for anyone I think, and then, you know, you could do something big, like go, you know, volunteer, at like a nonprofit or something. But I think a really good way to sort of get involved is to put pressure on your local politicians, you know, they are so much more accessible to us, then, you know, Biden is, and it just makes sense. Like, you can email those people, you can call those offices, and it doesn't take that much work. But, you know, it's the public's job to hold the government accountable. So, you know, taking like an hour out of your day to just find out like, who's in charge, like, who's doing what and you know, what's actually being done about these policies is, it can make a big difference.

Katie Gomes 16:42  

I think that's a really good point, I remember in my first environmental science class that I took with Dr. Carpenter, she had us write our local representatives on an environmental issue that we cared about. And I remember it was like, she asked us how many letters we thought politicians would have to get in order to, like, do something about an issue. And we thought it was gonna be like, hundreds or something, right? She was like, it only takes three, because no one writes to their politicians. So if you and two other people wrote your local politicians, and it's like, it shows them that people actually really do care about an issue. So I've done it before, it's definitely not hard. And it just is a way to actually get closely involved in something in your local area that you care about.

Jennifer Ng  17:27  

Before we end it, do you have any, like, other quick things you want to say about the election, how you're feeling, any messages to the rest of the student body and to the rest of the UP community about what this election means for like students and for climate?

Hannah Pickens 17:47  

I would quote Katie here and say that just because Biden was the saving grace from Trump doesn't mean he's our saving grace. And that the work that we have to do is not even close to over yet.

Carlos Fuentes 17:58  

Yeah, definitely a second thought and just say, you know, how important it is to hold our leaders accountable, because they might be promising all these different things. But if we're not going to see any of these changes in the next four years, then it was almost useless in a way.

Katie Gomes 18:10  

Yeah, definitely. And I've already seen it like, just on social media feeds, like people are already starting to critique both Biden and Harris, which I think is great, like people on the democratic liberal side, because it's like you can't just fully support, blindly support a candidate. I mean, then it's, it's no different than Trump supporters who have ignored all of his actions over the past four years. I think we definitely need to remain on top of it and keep pushing over these next four years in order to actually get some results. And kind of hopefully, push in more, not extreme positions, but you know, like, positions that we, it's going to take a lot of work to get our political system and our economy to. So yeah, we've definitely had a huge win, I'd say but there's definitely still a lot more to do.

Molly Lowney  19:09  

You can keep up with What On Earth? on Spotify, anchorFM, Google Podcasts and upbeacon.com. If you would like to submit a topic or questions for future episodes, go to upbeacon.com and click the story idea button on the right hand side of the page.

Jennifer Ng  19:26  

Thank you for listening to this episode of what on earth. Keep asking questions 

Molly Lowney  19:32  

And keep your leaders accountable. See you next time.

Jennifer Ng  19:35  

Special thanks to Hannah Pickens, Carlos Fuentes and Katie Gomes for appearing on this episode. Audio from CNN. This podcast is brought to you by the beacon hosted and produced by Molly Lowney and Jennifer Ng and music is from freemusicarchive.org

Jennifer Ng is the Opinions Editor and a photographer for The Beacon. She can be reached at ng21@up.edu.

Molly Lowney is a photographer for The Beacon. She can be reached at lowney21@up.edu.

Carlos Fuentes is the Copy Editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at fuentes22@up.edu.

Hannah Pickens is a sophomore environmental science major and she can reached at pickens23@up.edu.

Katie Gomes is a senior environmental ethics and policy major and she can be reached at gomesk21@up.edu.