10 Post-Election Strategies for Environmentalists

 

it’s 3:23 in the morning
and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?

Excerpt from The Hieroglyphic Stairway by Drew Dillinger

These lines came to me as I tossed in turned in the middle of the night, a week after Donald Trump won the electoral vote.

Looking at the plan that Trump said he will act upon the first 100 days,  there are some which I can support, such as withdrawing from the TPP, cleaning up corruption in Washington, and the Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act. However there are other issues to be concerned about, such as mass deportation, what the new healthcare plan and Supreme Court could look like and recent appointments which have exacerbated fears that there is an anti-environment and alt-right agenda.

Trump’s 100 day plan details an assault on the environment:

“FIFTH, I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.

SIXTH, lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward

SEVENTH, cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure”

I know that the remaining focus of this blog makes it appear that I am placing environmental issues over people, but that is not the case. I think they are all connected, and all equally important, but I don’t think the other issues will be relevant if we don’t have a healthy planet on which to live.  Also, I have more knowledge about environmental issues, so I think my contribution in these difficult times is to put forth strategies that may have a positive influence on the new administration’s climate policies.

Here are 10 strategies for environmental organizations and activists that may help prevent new oil and coal projects from moving forward, which prominent climate researcher, Michael Mann said if they do, could mean “game over for the climate.”

1. Make the Case for an End to Oil and Gas Subsidies and Lobby for a Carbon Fee and Dividend

During the election, Trump vowed to decrease federal subsidies. Why not start with the fossil fuel industry? Oil Change International describes these subsidies:

“A fossil fuel subsidy is any government action that lowers the cost of fossil fuel energy production, raises the price received by energy producers, or lowers the price paid by energy consumers. Essentially, it’s anything that rigs the game in favor of fossil fuels compared to other energy sources.

The most obvious subsidies are direct funding and tax giveaways, but there are many activities that count as subsidies – loans and guarantees at favorable rates, price controls, governments providing resources like land and water to fossil fuel companies at below-market rates, research and development funding, and more.

As of July 2014, Oil Change International estimates United States fossil fuel subsidies at $37.5 billion annually, including $21 billion in production and exploration subsidies. Other credible estimates of annual United States fossil fuel subsidies range from $10 billion to $52 billion annually – yet none of these include costs borne by taxpayers related to the climate, local environmental, and health impacts of the fossil fuel industry.”

Wind and solar credits on the other hand qualify for a 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour production tax credit, but it will gradually diminish through 2019. Despite considerably less funding, and the imposed phase-out of subsidies, the cost of solar PV panels and wind turbines continue to decline. In addition, there are far fewer externalities and inherent risks with these types of technology.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change. They build upon shared values rather than partisan divides, and train and support volunteers to build relationships with elected officials, the media, and their local community. Their plan would spur large, job-intensive investments to update our energy infrastructure—such as in electric power system upgrades, carbon capture and sequestration, nuclear, wind, solar, and batteries.

As a businessman, why would Trump want to stymie alternative energy companies which require less government subsidies and do not carry the risk of oil spills, pipeline ruptures, explosions during transport, contaminated water, and earthquakes?  But that’s just what happens when the fossil fuel industry is given billions of dollars in subsidies. It is time to level the playing field.

2. Encourage Roundtable Discussions with Respected Business Leaders

We have heard Trump’s disdain for politicians, lobbyists and other people who are “bought” in Washington. So, why not have successful business leaders, such as Sir Richard Branson or  T. Boone Pickens, advise the new administration that there are jobs to be created and profits to be made in renewable energy? I would love to see environmental organizations pull together to put this sort of advisory board together and then have them communicate their message to the public and to government officials.

3. Peer Pressure

Over 100 countries have now signed the Paris Climate Agreement. If Trump turns his back on the treaty, we face the very real possibility that there will be pressure from the countries who have made the pledge, maybe even in the way of economic sanctions against the US if we do not hold up our end of the deal. It could be very devastating to the American economy and it needs to be investigated and communicated as a very real possibility with wide-reaching implications.

4. Move to Divest

Divestment means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds from your portfolio that are unethical or morally ambiguous. The Sierra Club’s Student Coalition Campuses Beyond Coal Campaign demands that college and university administrations stop investing in the fossil fuel industry and reinvest in environmentally and socially responsible alternatives.

Since 2011, 300 campuses have joined the fossil fuel divestment movement, and now the campaign has spread to other institutions including cities, religious organizations, and foundations.

Not just for colleges, this movement is also active in faith communities and other institutions. To join a Divestment Campaign near you, or to start your own, visit Fossil Free.

5. Boycott the Companies and Banks that are Supporting the Building of New Pipelines

Along the same lines as a Divestment Campaign, this one is about following the money. This week, 350.org lead a #NoDAPL Day of Action . Thousands of people gathered to demand that President Obama stop the pipeline. For the day of action in Atlanta, protesters marched from CNN to SunTrust Bank, who is one of the 17 banks funding the North Dakota Pipeline. At this peaceful rally, we delivered a letter to SunTrust, asking them to stop funding the pipeline.

If your bank appears on this list, you can contact them and tell them that you don’t support your money being used for this project.

You may also consider breaking up with your bank and taking your business elsewhere.  Green America’s Break Up With Your Mega-Bank Campaign is helping consumers and investors create and strengthen healthy communities in the U.S. and abroad.

6. Land Trusts

In December 2008, Tim DeChristopher disrupted a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction, by posing as Bidder 70 and outbidding oil companies for parcels around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah. For his act of civil disobedience, DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison, but not for naught. The United States Department of the Interior agreed that the auction was rushed, with insufficient environmental and scientific review, and canceled many of the leases shortly after the auction and a subsequent court injunction.

This inspired me to wonder if environmental organizations could ban together to purchase land to halt more mining and drilling. It looks like The Land Trust Alliance might be a good place to start, but if you know of any others, please add that information in the comments below.

7. Lawsuits

On November 10th, 2016, a lawsuit filed by 21 youth plaintiffs was ruled valid by US District Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene, Oregon. A group of citizens, whose ages range from nine to 20, charged President Obama, the fossil fuel industry, and other federal agencies with violating their constitutional rights by declining to take action against climate change.

The lawsuit is one of several  state and federal legal actions spearheaded by Our Children’s Trust, a civic engagement nonprofit that advocates for young people and environmental issues.

Good columnist Kate Ryan writes, “Holding the U.S. government responsible will be more important than ever, now that our incoming president believes climate change is a hoax. While we may never be able to convince him of reality, we can empower our democracy to make his personal beliefs irrelevant.”

8. Media Ethics and Coverage

As an English major, I wrote a number of papers over the years. I was taught to use primary sources when possible, and to always differentiate fact from opinion. I realize that facts can be used to support positions and in that sense, there is some subjectivity in how they are presented, but you are still using facts to make your case, and a healthy debate can ensue.

In recent years, there has been a blatant disregard for truth as quotes have been purposefully taken out of context and opinions have been purported to be equivalent to facts, otherwise known as “Truthiness,” a phrase coined by Stephen Colbert in 2005.

In March of 2016, Fox News reports that for the first time in its nearly 20-year history, they drew the biggest quarterly crowd in basic cable, in primetime and in total day, with 2.37M viewers in primetime. Yet, Politifact’s Pundit scorecard shows the ratings for statements made on air by Fox, Fox News and Fox Business personalities and their pundit to be significantly less truthful than CNN.

fox

cnn

In addition to television, social media has also been under fire for the proliferation of false information. Since Donald Trump won the election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has addressed the issue of fake news, which has been said to influence the election.

During a hackathon at Princeton University (interestingly, Facebook was one of the companies sponsoring the event) four college students created an algorithm in just 36 hours, to determine real news from fake news in the form of a Chrome browser extension.

Whereas I don’t think that Facebook, or God-forbid the government, should censor media, I do think that there needs to be some sort of labeling system like the one above. Maybe news organizations can apply for a certification to be labeled as credible? What if Snopes and Politifact banded together to either call out false news and/or certify credible sources? Right now, you have to go to their sites to verify the validity of the article, but the “verified” button that the students created, could be a more immediate signal that you are about to share false information.

Also, we need to teach our children to be critical thinkers so that they know, or at least question, when they are being fed a load of BS. The Zinn Education Project, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change may be good organizations to support. If you know of other organizations that support curriculum and schools in this area, please post below.

At the very least, we environmentalists have to improve our messaging so that it doesn’t fall into an echo chamber. Whether it is through blogs, letters to the editor, comments on social media, news reports, or other means, we have to convincingly explain how climate change effects everyone and that the issue is no longer “if,” but “how” to mitigate it. This discussion can no longer be mainly relegated late-night cable comedy shows, with hopes of shares on social media the next day.

9. Demonstrations

Earlier this month, I admitted that I am uncomfortable at protests. But that said, I think they are extremely important to draw attention to issues, and to energize the participants, many of whom will use that momentum to organize local actions. 350.org advocates taking to the streets and making our voices heard, and often encourages national days of action, where people across the nation hold protests on the same day.  I attended the #NoDAPL  day of action earlier this week, and was very grateful to connect with community and hopefully make some passerby’s and SunTrust customers and employees aware of Standing Rock.nodapl

10. Divine Intervention

Many people are feeling at a loss right now, and as Einstein has famously said, “We can’t solve a problem on the same level it was created. We have to rise above it to the next level.” One option is to turn to spiritual leaders and/or our faith communities to help us navigate these difficult times.

His Holiness The Dalai Lama observes:

Climate change and the ups and downs of the global economy are problems that affect us all. They are not confined to national boundaries. Focusing on secondary differences between us like race, religion, nationality and gender, stokes our inclination to divide people into ‘us’ and ‘them’, which easily becomes a basis for conflict. He stressed that if we remember the oneness of humanity and think of each other as brothers and sisters we can overcome that potential for violence.

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.
We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family.
We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.
Both of these leaders are talking about moving a way from the “us v. them” mindset to recognize that, as indigenous people knew long ago, that we are all connected:
When one sits in the Hoop of the People,
one must be responsible,
because all of Creation is related,
and the hurt of one is the hurt of all,
and the honor of one is the honor of all,
and whatever we do
affects everything in the Universe.

From Lakota Instructions for Living

If you would like your faith community to be involved with Care for Creation, visit Interfaith Power in Light for resources and to see if there is a local chapter in your state.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a spiritual or religious person, making the shift from us v. them and from fear to love, is not only more effective, it also makes it must easier to stay engaged in this work and not suffer from burnout.

“If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by ordinary people, people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear.” Joanna Macy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Comment on “10 Post-Election Strategies for Environmentalists

  1. What a valuable post. I especially enjoyed the section about media literacy and hail your idea of a certification label.

    Full of so many well vetted resources. Thank you, Beth. I will refer to it often as I explore more opportunities to support Mother Earth.

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