What do we do now? Environmentalism in Trump's America


by James Sauer February 07, 2017

Unless you've been living under a rock--or under a happy, numbing mist in which no cable news can get in--you've probably heard President Donald Trump has taken office and really been getting down to business. Well, I'll leave it to you to decide how to interpret that.

Along with so many, many changes happening in the White House and in America right now, environmentalism is also inevitably facing great changes. Considering recent events, we can expect less government support for green initiatives in the coming years, and even decisions detrimental to the environment.

With Trump's flurry of executive orders, we've already seen the latter occur. Since it appears the new government will more often than not fail to defend environmental causes, I believe it is now our duty to ensure a green future for America and the planet. We can do this by remaining politically active, but also by changing the ways we spend our time and money.

 

 

 

What are some ways we can invest in the environment if our government won’t?

 

"What do we do now?" -- church sign spotted in Buffalo after the 2016 election

"What do we do now?" -- church sign spotted in Buffalo after the 2016 election

 

Of course, we should continue to hold the government responsible. But in addition, we must ramp up our commitment to green initiatives to make up for the losses environmental movements will likely incur.

Many have been concerned by Trump's nomination of the climate change ambivalent Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The president's executive memoranda to advance building of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, in addition to questionable attitudes on climate change and environmentalism in the new White House, also raise concern. As a mere starting point, see Trump's views that meander everywhere from conspiratorial to confused, or newly appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's unclear stance. All of this anti-environmental talk and uncertainty could be cause for a feeling of environmental doom. 

However, I'll go out on a limb here to say I don't think we can consider any of these changes a definitive blow to the Green movement.

Like so many other causes that are facing challenges in the U.S. today, fighting for the environment will require more than one approach. Peaceful protest can never hurt, and is an effective method to make voices heard. However, with a slew of executive orders, actions, and memoranda coming one after the other (like, are they gonna stop?), I wonder how much resistance is simply antagonizing the president and his team.

Resistance is relevant as long as it utilizes the rest of the democratic process. Judicial action will be valuable in fighting Trump's extremist policies (and it already has been). Ensuring representatives at national and local levels fight for environmental and anti-climate change policies is also our duty.

Beyond voting for environmentally conscious representatives, we can tell them our concerns by mail or phone and at local meetings. We can sign petitions making sure our concerns are addressed at various legislative levels, and voted on.  

But perhaps a less obvious, even simpler way to promote environmentalism is to simply insist on its importance and reality, and demonstrate our values outside of political boundaries as much as possible. For example, what if--despite the at times anti-corporate history of environmentalism--we make environmentalism an economic priority?

If the government can't have our backs, then let's voice our beliefs with one of the most influential systems in this great nation: money, money, money, money (yes, that was supposed to sound like the Apprentice theme song).

No, I'm not saying go out and buy a million BioCharlies (oh my gosh, do that though!), but I am restating a point previously made on this blog--that one thing that will surely defeat environmentally unfriendly industries and organizations is the loss of a customer base. This is something we've been saying for a while: if more and more people begin to more and more invest in sustainable, ecofriendly products, those products will beat out the less sustainable competition.

When more of us make sustainable decisions, companies will have to as well.

These sustainable purchasing decisions could include choosing a more fuel-efficient vehicle, choosing to reduce your use of fuel slightly each week by riding your bike or walking occasionally, purchasing locally sourced food or other products, or investing in energy efficient products or energy sources. 

For example, if more of us buy local food products, demand for them will rise while demand for the packaged items transported hundreds of miles across country will go down. In turn the grocery store will order less of those transported products, ideally reducing hundreds of miles of emissions.

courtesy of kdmc.com

courtesy of kdmc.com

We can influence these economic changes without necessarily spending a lot of money. The economy can be driven toward sustainability by other means and/or redirecting our expenditures.

Just a small example: my son is going to college this fall, and he is excited to begin a major in environmental science. The sustainability major and its related academic fields have become more popular at universities in recent years, U.S. News and World Report even listing it as one of a few "hot college majors." 

Clearly, interest in environmentalism has grown significantly, and it's not going anywhere simply because politics have shifted.

Students as well as the academics who teach them, and the researchers and scientists that often work in conjunction with universities, will certainly not lose interest either. These are people that will keep fighting to learn, and to teach our future citizens--and workers.

With more and more students choosing to learn about the environment and the ways they can protect it, more of these young people will choose to pursue what they studied in their careers. Whether taking entrepreneurial paths, or going on to work for already-established environmental or ecofriendly groups and businesses, these people and their interests will inevitably influence the markets. 

Cornell University sustainability student club. Cornell adding a sustainability major to its curriculum in 2012 according to US News & World Report. Photo courtesy of cornell.edu

Cornell University sustainability student club. Cornell added a sustainability major to its curriculum in 2012 according to US News & World Report. Photo courtesy of cornell.edu

At least, that is our hope. But is it not a persuasive hope? It is simple, but undeniable: if more people remain steadfast in their interests in environmentalism and the fight against climate change—instead of accepting defeat simply because of government policies—then they WILL have an effect. Then again, this is one of those things that's difficult to see and imagine as just one, lone, environmentalist peasant.

I know, it seems like the cards are against us lately. But I think if we all keep faith in the power of our individual actions, and their collective ability to affect change--even if the results aren't recognizable tomorrow, but over the long-term--then we really do have something to remain hopeful for.

Have faith in the green movement, and get out there and do something visible about it as soon as possible. Even if it's just driving your Prius to the farmer's market. Or, your rusty old Ford pickup truck to the farmer’s market. I don’t care. Just go to the farmer’s market!!

Stay informed and stay active,

Jim




James Sauer
James Sauer

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