Although overshadowed by Covid-19, another very significant event happening in 2020 is the Decennial Census.  Every 10 years, the federal government surveys each resident and then uses the population and demographic information to determine funding amounts and political representation. The cost to states for undercounts is considerable: analysis from the George Washington Institute for Public Policy estimates that states lose almost $1100 per person left out of the census. 

It’s not just a financial hit. The census impacts environmental justice and renewable energy in three critical ways.

1) Mass transit and environmental program funding

Federal funding supports public transit programs (including new projects), and environmental programs like Water Pollution Control grants, Hazardous Waste Management State Program Support, and the Wildlife Restoration Program.  The amount of funding the federal government provides to a state depends upon the population, as determined by the census.  As such, an accurate census count is crucial to ensure the state receives all funding it is due.  In turn, this funding can be used to finance carbon reducing mass transit and protect the local environment from pollution.

2) Representation in government

In the U.S. House or Representatives, each state has a certain amount of representatives.  The House of Representatives votes on important environmental laws, funding for agencies, and investigates misconduct.  The number of representatives – commonly referred to as congressmen or congresswomen – for each state depends upon the results of the census. Having full representation in the House requires full participation in the census.  Given that California leads the country in clean energy, full representation is crucial to support the federal transition to renewable energy.

3) Funding for schools

The movement for environmental justice and renewable energy is not just one for this moment; it extends to and will be led by the next generation, who are still in school.  A strong education in science and humanities, provided equally to all people, is necessary for future voters, innovators, and change makers to save the planet.  An accurate census ensures that states are provided with the federal funds required by law to bolster school funding.

How to Complete the Census

The easiest way to respond to the Census is online, but it is also possible to respond by phone or mail:

– by David Reagan, 350 Bay Area Contributing Writer