In response to some of the dismaying plans that may come to pass with Trump’s election as president, we ask Steven T. Jones of the Center for Biological Diversity (and former editor of the Bay Guardian) for some pragmatic tips on how we can forge ahead to fight climate change and pollution. On Tue/15, there is a big demonstration against the DAPL as part of a national day of action. Tomorrow is also when the SF Board of Supervisors will vote on the Avalos legislation banning fossil fuel extraction on city-owned lands.
Donald Trump won the presidency with a pledge to make America great again, promising to create a booming economy with jobs for all. Many fear that could come at the cost of the planet’s climate and biodiversity.
Trump’s vague economic plan involves tax cuts for wealthy corporations and individuals, ending free trade agreements in the hopes of bringing back lost manufacturing jobs, and getting rid of environment regulations. It may all be cynically self-serving wishful thinking, but his latter target could do real damage at this pivotal moment.
Countries around the world have representatives in Morocco right now figuring out how to meet the goals set in Paris last year for controlling global warming, just as our climate changes before our eyes. We’re also in the midst of the sixth mass extinction in the Earth’s history, and the only one caused by one species: humans.
The situation is dire and we just can’t afford to make things worse before they can get better. If Trump keeps his promises to revive the coal industry, turn over more public lands to extractive industries such as mining and logging, expand fracking and oil drilling in federal lands and waters, and abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, he could set environmental protection back by a generation.
So what can you do to help? Show your support for conservation at every level:
START LOCAL – San Francisco is in the process of banning oil extraction on city-owned lands, divesting from the fossil fuel industry, and launching the CleanPowerSF renewable energy program. Monterey County voters just passed Measure Z to ban fracking in the carbon-rich Monterey Shale Formation. Activists and communities around the world are standing with the Standing Rock Tribe of North Dakota and its effort to protect their waters from spills from a large oil pipeline. There’s an endless list of actions that we can take in our cities and communities to protect ourselves and the planet from climate change and environmental degradation. Find one that resonates with you and work on it. (You can find many opportunities on the Center for Biological Diversity website.)
TURN CALIFORNIA GREEN – We live in the sixth largest economy in the world and we have enormous political and fiscal influence on this country and many others. Through Assembly Bill 32, California has taken the lead on responding to climate change, but there’s still have much work to do in meeting its greenhouse gas reduction goals and becoming a clean energy leader. A large and growing movement is demanding the oil industry stop fracking and putting its wastewater on crops and in underground aquifers. The next governor’s race is already underway and we can demand that conservation goals be at the center of our political debates. What starts in California tends to spread throughout the country, so let’s show how the transition to clean energy will be good for the economy and the environment.
PUSH OBAMA EXECUTIVE ACTIONS – There are things that President Obama can and should do before he leaves office in January that will offset some of the damage his successor could do. One of those things is blocking the expansion of fossil fuel leasing in federal waters, something he has the full authority to do that can’t be undone by future presidents under current law. He can also ask the federal agencies under his control to do what they can to finish up pending rulings on Endangered Species Act findings, Clean Water and Clear Air Act violations, and other unfinished environmental business that could simply remain unfinished throughout Trump’s presidency. This is a nation ruled by laws, not men, and much of the work our regulatory agencies do carry the weight of laws that can’t be easily overturned. Plus, I’m sure there are some creative executive orders that Obama could pull out of his sleeve if he wanted to help protect his environmental legacy. The Obama White House makes a point of saying it is responsive to letters and public input, so make your voice heard.
EMBRACE CONSERVATION PERSONALLY – While it’s true that “lifestyle environmentalism” isn’t as impactful as systemic change, it certainly helps, so try to treat lightly on the planet in your personal choices. Wear a sweater rather than turning up the thermostat. Don’t drive a car when a bike is a better option, or take more airplane flights than necessary. Reduce your meat consumption, particularly from the industrial food system. Don’t buy single use plastic water bottles when you can choose tap water instead. And most of all, just keep fighting for the world that we all want to see and support environmental organizations that are actively engaged in that fight. It’s more important than ever.