And so it has happened. The Unites States has elected Donald Trump, a wild card for American politics, as its leader for the next four years. Cue silent agonising screams of the heart.
I will not go into his statements and scandals – there are tomes to write about that. Neither will I go into his personal history. What concerns me – and indeed it should concern each and every person on this planet – is his environmental agenda.
Here is a man who called climate-change a “Chinese hoax”. A man who has put a climate denier from a lobby funded by the fossil fuel industry as head of the Environmental Transition team. A man who has vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency’s legal powers into nothingness. His chief strategist hails from the Breibart New Network, which has recently claimed (falsely) that the Earth has entered a period global cooling (despite the past 3 years being the warmest on record, with each successive year breaking the previous year’s record). Enough said.
In other words, we are facing a four-year US presidency that is decidedly anti-environmentalist, and this couldn’t come at a more crucial time for the planet. The environmental impacts of our civilization are increasingly being felt every day – from air pollution, to the plastics clogging our seas, to the precipitous decline of biodiversity and increasingly severe weather. The writing is on the wall for everyone to see… and what is the reply? Let’s raise the temperature a bit more, in order to satisfy populist sentiment… and to fill people’s pockets.
It is easy to feel discouraged and pessimistic about our future. But, and here I will quote Margaret Mead for good measure: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” For fearing of sounding naively Pollyanna here, there is truth to this statement. This time, while decidedly harrowing for most people with some degree of concern for the planet and our civilization, should inspire us to rise up of our little corners of the field and speak out. It is encouraging to note, for example, that environmental group membership has skyrocketed since Trump’s election. So has funding for environmental groups across the US.
Orange may indeed be the new Black for some, but not all.
Increasingly, also, despite Trump’s promise to bring back coal onto the energy market in full force (turning back the clock, effectively), this may be impossible to do. Recent statistics show that there are 75,000 people across the US employed with the faltering coal industry, while in California alone 550,000 people are employed in the clean energy sector. Never has it been so good for the green energy sector. Whatever delusional world the big energy companies and the Trump administration choose to live in, the market is now in effect beyond their control.
One also can look at the past. It’s encouraging to look at the history of the Bush administration and take comfort in the fact that its environmental officials were ultimately unable to gut the Clean Air Act, though not from lack of trying. Whatever damage Trump does to the EPA itself can, if a Democrat regains the White House, be undone.
My advice to those with the planet at heart is this: let us wait and see, while doing our best to keep up the ante. We will have tough battles ahead. The sad reality is that we are losing precious time in the fight against climate change. Every effort on our part to address this crucial moral issue of our time is valuable – we cannot let out planet be cooked beyond recognition, condemning future generations to live on a far diminished planet. Whatever delusional world they may belong to, the Orange Man and his team cannot be allowed to hold sway… they will not live to see a dying Earth, but we and our children just might. If they are successful… as an optimist and realist, I’d say let’s not hold our breath, but neither let go of it. Let us use our breath, rather, to use this time as a rallying cry for climate action, both within our daily lives, and on an active national level.
“No matter what you do it will never amount to anything more than a single drop in a limitless ocean. But what is an ocean but a multitude of drops?”
Source of feature image: [Chan Lowe/ Tribute to content agency] 2014 [image online] Available at: <http://www.usnews.com/cartoons/energy-policy-cartoons> [Accessed 10 December 2016]