Now What? Some Thoughts from a SOCAN Co-facilitator
Yes, indeed! From the perspective of social and environmental justice, this has been a bad month so far. Like many of you reading this, I went to bed on the morning of the 9th thinking this was a different country than I imagined it was when I woke up election morning, the day before. But, it is what it is, and we have to move forward; the problems confronting our children and grandchildren, not to mention all life on our fragile planet have not gone away.
Over the days and weeks following the election, I have participated in many teleconferences, webinars, meetings, and panel discussion addressing the huge question: ‘Where Do We Go From here?’ I don’t pretend to have all (or any of) the answers, but here are some thoughts.
The Trump and Congressional Agenda:
Back in 2009, on the eve of the Copenhagen Climate Summit, Donald Trump signed on to an open letter published in the New York Times that read, in part: “As Business Leaders, we are optimistic that President Obama is attending Copenhagen with emissions targets…We urge you, our government, to strengthen and pass United States legislation and lead the world by example. We support your effort to ensure meaningful and effective measures to control climate change, an immediate challenge facing the United States and the world today….If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.”
At that time, then, Trump acknowledged the imperative of addressing climate change. Regrettably, his campaign told a different story. He repeatedly called global warming a hoax (manufactured by the Chinese), has now put a climate science denier in charge of his EPA transition team, and has vowed to: kill the Paris climate deal; end all efforts to help other countries deal with climate change; stop domestic climate action; reinvigorate coal; and zero out all research into climate science and clean energy.
Maybe we can remind him and his followers of that sane 2009 position, and urge him to recapture that concern and turn it into action.
Fortunately, during the recent Conference of the Parties (COP 22) in Marrakech, the signatories of the Paris Agreement agreed that they would continue with their actions, even absent he U.S. Additionally, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also a current presidential candidate in the center-right Republican Party (formerly the Union for a Popular Movement) suggested that France impose a 1-3 percent carbon tax on goods imported from the U.S. if Trump keeps his promise to reject the Paris Agreement. It is always possible that other nations party to the Paris Agreement will follow suite.
While the terms of the Agreement mean it takes four years for a signatory actually to withdraw, if Trump and Congress choose simply not to abide by the terms already agreed, the effect is obviously immediate withdrawal. However, maybe in the interim, signatory nations will follow the Sarkozy lead and impose a similar carbon tax on U.S. imports. If this happens, the U. S. would clearly be smarter to impose and collect such a fee ourselves. But, that only makes sense!
Be that as it may, we still have to decide our best route forward. I think one of the critical messages coming from the election is that, while continuing to encourage federal action, we need to refocus on local, regional, and state action recognizing that federal action is unlikely in the near future. This means not only promoting understanding of the climate issue (i.e. education), but getting involved in the development of solutions.
The Social Justice Angle:
Another profound message that I took away from the sessions in which I participated is the need to reach out to members of vulnerable communities who are personally and directly threatened by the result of this election – not just threatened by government action, but also by the promotion of a sub-culture that has legitimized, to some extent at least, racism, sexism, general xenophobia, and persecution of the LGBTQ community. Even here in Southern Oregon, we are hearing about kids in school being subject to heinous acts of bullying and taunting. There are those amongst us who feel, and indeed are, personally endangered. A 350.org panel discussion including representatives from the Black, Hispanic, Muslim and Inter-racial Millennial communities made it very clear that those of us fortunate enough not to be counted within these vulnerable communities need to be ready to support our threatened brothers and sisters whenever and wherever they need us.
Those of us who understand the issues are needed! The call is loud and clear; in the arenas of social and environmental justice, we cannot withdraw, tempting as it might be; we cannot abdicate our moral responsibility and escape to Canada (or wherever seems better). We must stay and rededicate ourselves to environmental and social justice – for ourselves, for our friends, and for future generations.
The treatment of those protesting the North Dakota Access Pipeline in the name of justice – in our names – may be a harbinger of what is to come as those peacefully protesting insane fossil fuel projects are treated as terrorists and – in this case – doused with water in below-freezing conditions. If sanoty does not prevail at the federal level and in the states, we will undoubtedly be called upon in the coming months to support such actions in every way we can.
Finally, let’s not forget that when the votes are fnally all counted, Hillary Clinton will probably have garnered some 2 to 2.5 million votes more than Donald Trump. This means, even if the Trump voters were supporting all that Trump represented himself as in the campaign, that mix of views is supported by a minority of voters. If this happens, she will have won by more than anyone else who ever also lost the Electoral College.
Thanks for reading,
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