What Billionaire Tom Steyer is Doing Right

Like a lot of well-intentioned folks out there, my inbox is visited by an eclectic assortment of appeals to do…well, something. I’m not talking about AllModern trying to sell me furniture — I have a separate email for sales pitches and my home decor obsession. I’m talking politics.

Recently, Randy Bryce told me he’s been an ironworker for twenty years, “earning a fair wage.” Now he’s running for Congress.

I liked the header —

— but where on earth is this guy from? I had to scroll to the bottom of the email. Wisconsin? What do I know from Wisconsin? Cows. Cheese. I’ve lived on both coasts and Arizona. The Midwest is tierra incognita.

I can’t say my environmental homeboys are better. I love you guys, but you can’t send an email that works on my iPhone?

The difficulties aren’t just technical. In May, when the House of Representatives voted to “repeal and replace” (read: destroy) health care for millions of Americans, I got an email sounding the alarm on the Trump administration’s attempt to sell off national parkland.

Sometime. In the future.

You know what I thought?

You don’t care about me.

You don’t care about my kids. Or my husband. Or my 84-year-old mom.

And I’m a lifelong environmentalist.

I unsubscribed, weeding out all but the most important emails so I could stay informed. A few days ago, wondering if I was getting suckered again, I signed up for NextGenClimate, billionaire Tom Steyer’s big effort to slow climate change.

I admire Steyer, even though he got rich running a hedge fund. He’s put his money into good causes, and his wife is a dynamo. With tattoos.

So today I get an email from someone named Heather Hargreaves (who?) who asked me to sign one of those irritating petitions that we sign anyway. Here’s why:

Last night, Democratic senators took over the floor of the U.S. Senate to demand that Republicans stop hiding their secret healthcare bill.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week, but there has not been a single public hearing or committee vote — all because GOP senators don’t want you to know what’s in it.
Here’s the secret Republicans don’t want you to know: Their healthcare “plan” is merely a massive tax break for the rich, paid for by cuts to healthcare services for working families.
Call your senators at 202–759–8193 and demand that they do everything they can to bring this bill to the public view.

Whoa, wait a minute. Isn’t NextGen about climate?

Then I thought, this guy Steyer cares. More than that, he understands that people and nature are connected, in a thousand ways, or a million. (Or he’s smart enough to hire people who can put that together.) You can’t save nature unless you have a functioning civil society and part of that is making sure people’s basic needs are met.

I signed the petition and I’ll keep reading NextGen emails.

Can a hedge fund guy be a saint? I don’t think so. But we don’t need a saint or Jimmy Carter would still be president.

We need someone who gets it.

Here’s what it is: If we’re going to save the planet, environmentalists need to think with their hearts. You can’t worry about Bears Ears National Monument on the same day your kids’ lives are threatened. Tell me tomorrow. I’ll listen.

We want to save the non-human world — bears, mountains, rivers — but we have to be human to do it.