The American people just elected a climate denier for President, and he’s promised to undo all of the recent gains of the Obama administration on the climate and environmental front. Climate experts are saying that if these reversals of power plant regulations, pipeline halts and Paris climate agreements go through, it will likely tip us into the danger zone for greenhouse gas PPM, past the tipping point where there’s no chance of avoiding the worst of the projected destructive outcomes, midcentury and beyond. That’s incredibly scary, that 4 -8 (let’s hope not!) years of Trumpism could have such a detrimental effect… but at this late hour in the progress of global warming, it’s a very real possibility.
Of course we must mount a resistance to Trump’s wacko decisions with every available resource, but when I think about strategy, I’m reminded of the helplessness I felt when marching in anti-war protests in the post-9/11 lead-up to the Iraq War. Though millions of people around the country and the world were standing up and shouting NO, I knew in my heart these actions would have no effect; the Bush administration would not listen to the people; they would ram through their bogus war, ushering in hundreds of thousands of casualties, millions of refugees, and escalating unrest in the Middle East.
The question then arises, instead of asking ourselves how we can pressure a blinkered, unreasonable majority government to see reason when it comes to climate response, we might better be asking how can we get to zero carbon without them? Without the federal government? Until such time as we can shift the power balance?
Climate concerned folks everywhere are having similar strategic reflections, and I’m sure we’ll see a flow of new ideas for how to continue significant progress on the climate by making an end-around of this unfriendly President & Congress. Here are some of my top-of-the-head ideas.
1- Focus on carbon reduction in the states. Keep building momentum to the rapid shift to a carbon-free economy taking place at the state and international level – California, New York, Germany, Finland, etc.
- Use these states as models to show more “backward” U.S. states the myriad benefits of growing a green economy.
- Mobilize climate-friendly groups and communities in “backward” states to put pressure on their local and state governments to move on carbon reduction.
- Lobby for a carbon tax in friendly states and use the success of such measures to pressure both backward states AND the federal government to institute a carbon tax; which has received bipartisan support in the past.
2. Education & PR – Change hearts and mind on a grand scale to grow the number of concerned citizens around the country – primed and ready for the next election.
- Continue to educate kids with climate and sustainability programs; the kids in turn influence their parents. “Don’t you care about my future, mom and dad?”
- Continue promoting climate action as a non-partisan, non-political existential issue that affects all of us—eg. via the kids.
- Lobby for climate action and sustainability narratives in popular entertainment and the arts, including shows and messaging that can reach conservative Americans. (Link to: Carbon Cowboys on TV! The VisionLA Climate Action in Entertainment Lobby)
- Get positive Climate Action stories into the political discourse through non-stop agitation. If climate action is always in the news because of a constant stream of actions expressing public concern, it may just break through to the more reasonable Republicans in congress, who can resist the more egregious plans of Trump and cronies
- Media/news reform. It’s unconscionable that climate change barely registered as a topic in the last election cycle, with the media covering the more scandalous stories. Pressure the 4th Estate to stop entertaining and start informing!
3. Economics and sustainable business. Step up education of business interests about the cost of future climate impacts vs the untapped economic potential of a green economy.
- The profit-making potential of a new paradigm rivaling the tech boom can be shown to outweigh the costs of leaving the old infrastructures behind, especially when the cost of global warming impacts are repeatedly emphasized. (Best case scenario- taking those costs into account with a carbon tax!)
- Even if I don’t believe pure capitalism is a sustainable economic system, I have faith in it as a driver of rapid change. Our economy changes radically as business interests embrace opportunity and innovation, so let’s make abundantly clear that all the opportunity in the next 10 years points away from fossil fuels and toward sustainability and green innovation. The recent downturn of coal prices for market reasons unrelated to regulation is a promising turn of events that can be highlighted as the future of all fossil fuel.
The best response to this election is to stay positive and get creative, to channel the horror and fear of the majority electorate toward momentum for climate justice, and use that momentum to swell the ranks of engaged change-makers. This is what VisionLA, and many other climate action organizations are re-committing to in the next four years. Out of compassion for our kids, and for all the people, animals and living beings of the future, there is no other choice but to do whatever it takes to turn the tide back toward sanity.