I’ve been trying to make sense out of what a Trump administration is going to mean for the environment. His promises and platform seem ominous.
- Trump’s consistently promised to pull away from climate action (here).
- His presidential transition is staffed with extraction industry leaders, climate deniers, and science antagonists (here). The shortlist for his cabinet is no different (here). And he’s promised to remove all barriers to mining our public lands (here).
- Congress in his favor, he has means to limit or end environmental laws, policy, and management. The EPA (here) and ESA are clear targets (here). Our National Park Service may be as well (here).
- It seems Trump will be selecting at least one justice. The Supreme Court will then be balanced against environmental defense. For decades to come (here).
- Across issues, Trump vocally favored remanding decisions to state governments (here). It’s likely he’ll endorse the sage-brush movement and champion the transfer public lands to states.
- Not to mention the many ecological implications of a border wall, which is already funded (here).
Actions on the environment will affect social, cultural, economic wellbeing globally. But like Obama said, “The sun will come up in the morning” (here).
There may be the tiniest of glimmers of hope for an environmental Trump. In an interview (here), he says, “I’m a huge believer in clean water and clean air.” In his first-100-day contract with the American voter (here), he committed to “fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.” Let’s hold him to that. Oh, and apparently he eats organic (here). So… yeah. There’s that.
People who love the outdoors have some bitter lessons to learn from this election. Namely…
- A significant percentage of the country (~19%) voted against climate action and environmental regulation (here).
- The climate and environment don’t make the debate moderator’s list because they don’t make good TV (here).
- The campaign was largely an online one, punctuated with fact and misinformation (here).
I’m encouraging you to not waste energy (pun? maybe.) on being reactionary. Don’t bite on bait that’s not in your lane. That said, it’s time for a little Teddy play; “speak softly, and carry a big stick.” Here’s what I’d advocate:
- Try to understand where people are coming from.
I find Russell Brand’s thoughts on the US election insightful. “What’s important is the conditions” (here), in this case, in which a person would vote against climate and environmental action. Do you understand the conditions of the Trump supporter down the street? Are you surprised they didn’t vote for the environment?
- Focus on the real connection between environment and our quality of life.
Trump is nothing if not a businessman. Those who voted for him are hoping for more prosperity. They’ll go where the money is. For instance, I expect the Outdoor Industry Association will continue to leverage research for the protection and management of outdoor spaces.
- Be part of the solution, not the problem.
Millennials, the growing demographic with increasing influence, prefer collaborative solutions. The modern business world and information industry prefer collaborative solutions. Instead of being divisive, reach out toward people to whom you haven’t. Find a place at the decision table by pulling people together. We need adaptive creative thinking that reaches across boundaries.
- Tell your story better and in the right channels.
As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “No matter what you do, your job is to tell your story” (here). A great failure of this election is climate and environment did not resonate with voters as they should’ve. Why? Partly because we are not telling a compelling story. We have to get out of our privilege of environmental advocacy and advocate for people. We show clearly how environmental protection is the protection of life, liberty, and property. And we have to tell our story personally and honestly. Otherwise, we will fail to make the case that the climate and environment are important to them.
- Lend watchdogs your help. Someone has to watch the watchers. The wellbeing and quality of life for our children and grandchildren is at stake; now is the time. And the place will be the front lines of places threatened by an advent of open exploitation. Advocacy for the environment in this climate will take the litigious tenacity of groups like Defenders of Wildlife and Center for Biological Diversity. We could see a new brand of activism willing to throw down like monkey wrenchers of the Reagan-Bush era. And because of people’s distrust for data, science itself is in jeopardy. While less funding will be allocated to legitimate research, monitoring and assessing earth sciences will be more important than ever. So find work and advocacy you believe in and contribute!
I’m on the edge of my seat to see what a kind of positive disruption evolves out of our environmental crisis. To quote the president-elect, “It’s gonna happen.”