We entered 2017 expecting a rough ride, and boy has that dismal expectation been more than met. The Trump administration’s onslaught on the environment has been so relentless that it’s been a struggle just to keep tabs. And, let’s be honest, it’s been harder still, to hold on to our outrage.
In the less than a year that he’s been in office, our esteemed president has directed his administration to roll back more than 50 environmental regulations and policy decisions that he and his Republican cohort have deemed unfriendly to the fossil fuel industry and other big businesses. Items on the hit list have included everything from national monuments to Yellowstone grizzlies to Obama-era policies aimed at fighting climate change. Just weeks before hurricanes Harvey and Maria devastated communities in Texas and Puerto Rico, the White House scrapped flood risk management standards that required federal agencies to factor in sea level rise when building infrastructure such as roads and bridges in low-lying areas. We could have laughed at the inescapable irony of it all had our people not been hurting so much.
In the international arena, the ax, as feared, fell on the Paris Climate Accord – the 2015 agreement approved by nearly all nations, including the United States, which aims to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.
As I write this, the COP23 climate talks are underway in Bonn, Germany. While other world leaders and delegates at the conference are working at ironing out the nitty-gritties of the Paris Accord, and even war-torn Syria announced it would sign the deal, guess what the official US delegation has been up to? Not much: just shuffling the focus of one of its few public meetings from clean energy to the role of “Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation.” Move on folks, nothing to see here, only the world’s second biggest greenhouse gas emitter holding out against a pact that could save the world from imminent peril.
But if the onslaught has been relentless, so has the resistance. At nearly every turn, Trump’s unsound, and potentially illegal, decisions have been challenged, not only by environmental and social justice activists, but by career personnel within the administration as well.
Meanwhile, a coalition of 20 states, including California, Colorado, and New York, and at least 60 big businesses have signed “America’s pledge” to combat global warming. Together, this powerful group has an economic clout of $10 trillion, behind only the US as a whole and China. In Bonn, the #wearestillin coalition led by Michael Bloomberg, Jerry Brown, and Al Gore is drawing far more attention than the official US delegation. If we need more evidence that the struggle is yielding results, there’s election night 2017, where the GOP suffered major setbacks and diversity trumped divisiveness.
Around this time last year, I wrote that this was the moment for all of us working to build an equitable and sustainable world to come together and stand strong.
It’s great to see that we have been on task.
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