Thursday, November 17, 2016


Shell-Shocked But Resilient

Dear Friends and Family,
     Today, I write you at the beginning of a new era in American politics – I pray a very short one. Never in my wildest imaginings did I think it would come to this. I am shell-shocked, incredulous. The president-elect makes Nixon look like a progressive (created by the political climate of 1970, when I attended the first Earth Day), and Reagan a relatively harmless genial grandfather, though his policies created a launching pad for Mr. Trump. George W. Bush, with all his failings, at least acknowledged the reality of climate change on several occasions, as did the 2008 Republican platform. That platform even insisted we had an obligation to the poor who were at risk from its ravages, already threatening their shores. Climate justice in a Republican platform, two cycles ago.
     The list of hard-won accomplishments in the last eight years that Trump plans to do away with is frightening. You all know that list, which, when erased, would indeed wipe away Barack Obama's legacy. The pivotal role of the Supreme Court going forward is key to much of what Trump intends to undermine. At the very least, the Roberts Court will go forward with a 5-4 conservative balance, and the probability of one or more of the liberal octogenarians being replaced during Trump's term is quite high, which would entrench that majority for another generation.
     I speak from a place of privilege, a white male with a PhD, comfortably retired. I am personally protected from the harm that Trump has either promised or darkly hinted at, aimed at women (especially abortion rights), undocumented workers, and the LGBT community. Muslims, both within and without our borders, most of all climate refugees from the Middle East, have been especially targeted.
     However, as a human being living in the Anthropocene period, I am hugely vulnerable to his most momentous threat, to withdraw as soon as possible from the Paris Accord which was negotiated last December, and went into effect just last week under the looming shadow of the US election. The odds of preventing catastrophic climate change are slim at best. Without an international agreement pushing nations to set and periodically ratchet up their carbon emissions reductions, those odds go from slim to virtually zero.
     One of the climate warrior organizations to which I subscribe wrote today that the Paris Accord would go forward without us, and the rest of the world would continue to develop renewable energy so rapidly that we would be caught up in the economic tide. But let's not kid ourselves. The US and China, as the biggest emitters, need to lead the rest of the world in the energy revolution. We are rapidly running out of time, and the US's leaving the pact, just as it is getting on its feet, would effectively kill this fledgling effort. The Paris Accord only has a chance to dampen climate disruption if a culture of peer nations, each trying to outdo the others in their pace of carbon reduction through periodic review, is quickly established. Any remnant of “greatness” left in our country would manifest in competition with China to be first among those peers. To align “greatness” with an attempt at rapid expansion of our economy, powered by an all-out expansion of fossil fuel extraction, would be even more devastating now than it was in the Reagan era.
     As for China, they are poised for leadership in the huge renewable energy market, once we abdicate as their chief competitor. This happened before, when Reagan tore down the solar collectors on the White House roof after defeating Jimmy Carter and mothballed the emergent solar energy revolution. Carter's plan for foreign aid during his second term centered on capitalizing the shift in developing countries to renewable energy for providing their increasing need for power. The far-seeing Carter, our only engineer-president, saw this as a way to leapfrog over the destructive fossil fuel pathway. I know this from a member of the energy team he had assembled at the end of his first tem. This was a huge blow to the climate struggle, even before we realized what we were doing. This was thirty-five years ago, when CO2 registered 339 ppm. We are well past the point where we can afford a second blow of this scale. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. Yes, Lord, in 1980. And now? The Creator's forgiveness is endless. Not so the Earth.
     So what are we to do? If Thomas Berry's prayer for “the re-invention of the human at the species level” is answered rapidly enough, it won't matter that we won't have an international agreement or governments committed to reducing emissions and building a post-carbon energy infrastructure at a wartime pace. Whether or not this requirement becomes reality in the tiny interval remaining before it's too late, 3-10 years, we can still work to change our own habits, and to build the resilience of our local communities. Some of those communities are destined for early dissolution, especially coastal communities that are already vulnerable to frequent storm surges from rising sea-levels. But others, like my own in Southern Appalachia, have a fighting chance, at least for awhile. International climate diplomacy aside, climate change happens at the level of the entire earth system, so even if some places are spared the initial onslaught of the awakened giant of climate disruption, refugees, some armed and desperate, will converge on them soon enough. Stark questions of sufficient water, food and shelter will ensue. This is already the reality in the Middle East and East Africa.
     The issues associated with rapid climate change are inescapable. It's just that with a Trump presidency looming on the horizon, they are coming at us even faster than we had hoped. And those we would educate and encourage to act mutually for the sake of our community, whether it be local, national, or global, are now in power, ready to entrench the very interests that are threatening global climate stability. Our task is huge, and it involves some fundamental actions. First, we must accept the new reality of a Trump presidency and everything that entails. Secondly, we need to redouble our efforts at grounding ourselves in a greater Reality, so that we are less effected by the tides of change, the pain, angst, and loss. Thirdly, we need to each find our place of resistance to the new regime, sharing with others our process of discernment among the range possibilities available.
     My next post will outline my own personal choices along this spectrum within the rich context of possibility in the international network for sanity, resilience, and resistance. A key immediate opportunity is to support the camp at Standing Rock, the Sioux water-keepers who are risking their lives to block deployment of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) through their Missouri River watershed and sacred sites. As they prepare for the harsh North Dakota winter, they need food, water, firewood, warm clothing and bedding, and reinforcements. They also need contributions to their legal defense fund. I am happy to report that a benefit at the Celo Community Center just down the road this past weekend raised $900 for the fund.
     Standing Rock is the spear-tip of the phalanx constituted by the global climate insurgency (Jan 18 post). It is a pivotal community of civil disobedience against the infrastructure being laid for a new era of fossil fuels, the fracked oil and gas from the Bakken (Dakotas), Marcellus (NY, Pennsylvania, and West Virgina) and Permian (West Texas) deposits. Resistance groups are sprouting up along all of these proposed pipeline routes. The attorney general of New York, backed by the governor, has ruled against fracking in that state. But civil disobedience, followed by consistent use of the necessity defense at trial, remains our chief legal tool, in the US as well as globally.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]