No, it’s not all doom and gloom.
You see, last night’s election result was a deep disappointment to those of us who believe in acting on climate change, protecting our environment, celebrating our differences, and creating an America where everyone is welcome and accepted. But the truth is, there are a lot of things that Donald Trump can’t change in this country.
We must continue to have faith in our system of checks-and-balances, which was established by our Founding Fathers to make sure that no one branch of government has all the power, including the president. Here are some reasons to be hopeful:
- A transition to renewable energy sources makes sense economically. Solar and wind costs have plummeted over the past decade, making them extremely competitive compared to fossil fuels. About 13% of U.S. electricity generation already comes from renewables, without the Clean Power Plan in effect, and without any major groundbreaking climate legislation. A global energy transition is already in motion, and U.S. businesses will respond to that. I believe that economics will be the underlying factor driving this transition, and economics will ultimately win.
- He really can’t “bring back” the coal industry. Mining technology and the competitiveness of alternative energy sources, including renewables and natural gas, has caused a natural decline in coal production. Again, economics win.
- The EPA is not going anywhere. Yes, Trump can and probably will stop the EPA from regulating methane emissions from natural gas. Under Myron Byrell, the role and scope of the EPA’s work will change significantly, but the agency itself, as well as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, is based on a complex set of laws. I don’t think Trump has the patience or ability to systematically repeal each of those laws.
- The Paris Agreement isn’t everything. This is one thing that is in real danger under the Trump administration. Even though the Paris Agreement is already in effect, and countries cannot pull out for another three years, with an extra one-year “notice period”, the US could very well just fail to meet their emissions reductions targets, which could delegitimize the entire thing. However, the Paris Agreement isn’t the only solution to climate change – it was always just one part of it, and we always knew that much of the fight had to come from local areas instead of from international or even national policy.
- We still have the local fight. In the U.S., state and local governments have tons of control. We can use this to our advantage to fight climate change on a local level. Encourage your city government to adopt a Municipal Climate Action Plan and form alliances with other cities across the globe. Educate your community about alternative energy sources and ways to reduce waste. Start a community garden.
- We, the people, still have the ultimate power in this country. If we make enough noise, and really take the initiative to stand up for what we believe in, we can still reinforce the extremely important values of environmental protection and stewardship for future generations. Look up the names of your elected representatives. Send them letters. Call them. Let them know what you think.
I’m not going to say that this election result doesn’t matter, because it does. There is no doubt that we will not see the kind of progress we need the U.S. to make in this area in the next four years, and that it will have a huge impact on the whole world. And I’ve only talked about environmental issues – I really am deeply frightened for the impacts on immigrants, people of color, members of the LGBTQ* community, Muslims, and anyone who is labeled as “different” by Trump and his followers.
But the truth is, the fight isn’t over – it has just begun. I didn’t list the six items above in a naive, idealistic effort to be positive; I really am hopeful that what is right and what makes sense will win in America. Yes, this is a major setback for the environment and nearly every progressive cause. But no, this is not the end. We cannot give up, we cannot back down. We must make our voices heard, and we have to fight harder now than ever before. The next four years will test the integrity and strength of this country, and millions of future schoolchildren will study this time in their history classes. Will these next four years be characterized by disaster, despair, and apathy? Or will they be remembered as years of passion, activism, and resilience?
It’s up to us. The fight starts now.