Well here we are.
I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.
I feel like I have spent the last week waking up every day and thinking for the first 30 seconds- did I just dream that we installed a leader and a congress that really does threaten all of the hard-won progress we have made on climate change?
And is a racist, sexist, xenophobe unfit for the position who is carrying that hatred with him in a tidal wave of unthinkable appointments and confirmations that threatens to install a cadre of close-minded, anti-science dinosaurs into the highest branches of government?
Yes. That actually is happening.
OK. Time to breathe and think.
After I wake up, I spend a lot of time reading the news and friends’ posts about what this all means, and in particular, how on earth did this happen? And I do think its important to understand what got us here. We can talk about the rural white vote. We can talk about the huge, and valid, levels of dissatisfaction with stagnating wages and the rise of massive economic inequality in this country and the vicious, unrelenting loss of living wages and retirement benefits and health care access that has many people desperate for change. We can talk about the lack of dems voting. We can talk until we are blue in the face about whether the people who installed this guy are racist or not racist or just willing to ignore the racism because there’s an economic argument they desperately want to hear. It’s probably some of all of this.
But there is something more important to me than any of this. I want to talk about what we stand for. And I want to stop talking in terms of how what we stand for is in opposition to what Trump stands for. Recently, I got an email from a Democratic party group asking me to “stand against everything Trump stands for”, and giving me a bullet list of the things I should reject. And yes, I do stand against those things- things like racism, and sexism, and xeonophobia. But folks, here’s what I really want and I really think we need: I want to stand FOR things. This entire election campaign, I have felt constantly on the defensive: defending women against sexism. Defending immigrants against xenophobia. Defending people of color. Defending LGBTQ rights. Defending the role of science to even be part of the conversation. I cannot possibly fathom years of this- of being on defense, even though that’s something of a political reality now. But constantly being on the defense is a recipe for reactivity, depression, and feeling cornered, and healthy work does not come out of these feelings. Progress does not come out of these feelings.
Funnily enough, soon after I got that email and started thinking about how to re-frame the conversation, I got another one from a wonderful local grassroots climate group, saying this: “It is important that the climate movement does not simply go on the defensive under Trump but continues to push forward for progress!”
So let’s go on the offensive. And I mean that broadly, about all the things that are important. About women’s rights, LGBT rights, people of color’s rights, the right to a decent wage, biodiversity, access to health care, education- whatever the issue, its time to go on offense and demand what we want, not just what we don’t want.
For climate issues, here’s what I want, and here’s what I’m pledging to work for:
- An ongoing commitment to the promises we made in the Paris Climate Treaty
- Supporting the continued implementation of the Clean Power Plan
- Insisting that we put people in positions of scientific leadership that have the expertise and qualifications to be in those positions
- Preparing ourselves for climate change adaptation to known effects including sea level rise, hydrologic alterations, and ocean acidification
- Supporting the elements of a clean energy roadmap that we cannot afford not to take, including:
- Modernizing the electric grid
- Expanding and funding mass transit
- Supporting progress for building energy storage capacity
- Supporting smart growth planning for our cities and keeps them walk-able and bike-able
- Shifting the balance of incentives to truly renewable technologies including wind and solar
I don’t kid myself that there will be plenty of defense played in this upcoming political game of lowest common denominator in political leadership. However, I think it is incredibly important that we continue to define our goals not only in terms of what we do not want, but what we DO want and what we do envision for our future. That’s how we continue to move forward after those first 30 seconds have played themselves out. That’s how we get up every day and think positively about the future we want for ourselves and our children. Let’s do this.