In memory of the Environment: 25 million BCE-Nov. 8, 2016
I woke up this morning to messages and Facebook posts reminding me that everything will be okay, and that the sun will rise and we will move on. Except, none of these messages or Facebook posts consoled me. President (am I really saying this?) Donald Trump will be in office for four years, and four years is far too long to not act on the environment in a radical way. My night started out in hopelessness. There’s no denying the facts. Donald Trump doesn’t believe in global warming. He believes in coal power. He wants to get rid of the EPA, cancel the monumental Paris Climate Agreement, and he refuses to fund clean energy research. I won’t sugarcoat this: any progress we’ve made in recent years will backslide to a destructive degree.
We’re talking about the United States election. While I know global warming is a threat to the entire world, I can’t help but point out that the U.S. is the leading contributor to global warming. Both houses are in GOP hands, which makes climate action more difficult than it’s ever been before. Trump is going to appoint a climate denier, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell, to lead the EPA’s transition team. Trump will have his pick on the Supreme Court too, which will decide the fate of Obama’s central climate accomplishment, the Clean Power Plan.
So yes, when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States last night, the environment died. But it’s been dying for decades now, and the Trump election will set the world back another decade or more on reversing climate change. The election is an enormous blow to environmentalists. We didn’t see this coming, and we mourn today.
But there is hope.
There’s hope because the earth is strong, and environmentalists around the world have a stronger fortitude on this day and every day to come to fight for the planet that we’d give everything to protect.
The COP22: Marrakech Conference is just getting underway, and the rest of the world is relentless in making a plan to have a Trump presidency work for our planet. The leaders of the COP22 conference are quick to point out that Trump’s inconsistency on policy positions provides an opportunity for environmentalists to push even harder on the change we need to make. Alden Meyer from the Union of Concerned Scientists told everyone gathered in Marrakech, “If the U.S. pulls out of [the Paris Climate Agreement], and is seen as going as a rogue nation on climate change, that will have implications for everything else on President Trump’s agenda when he wants to deal with foreign leaders. And I think he will soon come to understand that.”
Negotiators at COP22 hope the Trump administration sees the sense in acting on climate change. Mariana Panuncio-Feldman from WWF said, “If the U.S. wants to remain a relevant global player in the economic arena, it is going to have to recognize that it needs to face the climate crisis and address it. And we expect the new administration to do that. Other countries are not waiting.”
Everyone in Marrakech is committed to fighting for the reversal of climate change, and I believe they can make an enormous impact even without the United States’ participation.
As I was laying in bed this morning reading an article urging women to take the day off because they deserve it, I got a text from a fellow environmentalist that said Stand tall today. I jumped out of bed. If we want to save the environment, we have to work harder than we ever have before. We have to join together against a president who believes climate change is a hoax. Our fight only becomes more necessary, and those who might not have participated before will see the urgency of climate action now.
As Hillary Clinton addressed her supporters and gave her concession speech, I can’t help but turn my hopelessness into hope. “Many of you are at the beginning of your professional, public, and political careers. You will have successes and setbacks too. This loss hurts. But please, never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”
It’s worth it to continue to fight a cause that may seem dismal. Our planet may continue to warm, but I believe we have the power to someday see charts that finally reveal cooling.
Take a deep breath, and let’s discuss what to do next. On Friday, 350.org is bringing together leaders from various movements for justice for a live broadcast to discuss plans for the fight ahead.
Lastly, don’t give up hope. Dr. Piers Sellers, who is an astronaut and Director of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA/GSFC, told Leonardo DiCaprio in Before the Flood, “I’m basically an optimistic kind of person. I have faith in people.” Sellers continued, “I think once people come out of their fog of confusion on an issue or their uncertainty on an issue, they realistically appreciate it on some level, the threat, and then form what is the best action to deal with it. They gone on and did it. What seemed almost impossible to deal with became possible.” Smiling again, Sellers looks the camera in the eye with a fortitude that gives me chills to the bone.
Brock Evans, the President of the Endangered Species Coalition, once said, “Endless pressure, endlessly applied.” And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Will you join me in bringing the environment back to life?