To many of my environmentalist friends, this past week could not have gone any worse. It’s their worst nightmare come true. With the shock of the election beginning to settle in, prognostications and rumors abound that the election represents a catastrophic threat to the global environment.
Recognizing the grave despair of many this past week, I attempted to offer words of consolation to my green friends, pledging to work across the political divide for environmental protection. Words oftentimes seem empty and hollow, and I’m under no illusion that mine likely rang hollow as well. The sentiment of one of my friends I think best sums up the feelings of many.
“But hey look on the bright side, with [Trump’s] attitude regarding climate change, we humans are doomed anyway.”
I believe these concerns are genuine and heart-felt, but I continue to believe that this election represents a unique opportunity to change the status quo, moving away from an over-reliance on DC-centric, top-down approaches to environmental protection that are outmoded. That’s a far cry from saying EPA is no longer relevant. EPA is very relevant and can and must continue to play a prominent role – but a different type of EPA.
I hearken back to an interview with the British Philosopher and Author, Roger Scruton, who offered these pearls of wisdom:
You speak at length in your book, How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for Environmental Conservatism, about the importance of establishing the right incentives. What role can and should the government play in establishing those incentives?
The first thing governments should do is to recognize that regulation always changes people’s incentives, and that this has unintended consequences which may make matters worse. I give many instances of this. The most important incentives should be those which lead people to internalize the costs of their own behavior. Farmers should be rewarded for preventing the run off from cow stalls from entering waterways, for example; bottle deposit schemes should reward people for returning plastic bottles to the distributor; the use of degradable plastics in food wrappings can be encouraged by pricing them below the cost of the current non-degradable alternative. Each such initiative will have side effects that will need to be assessed. And that means that no set of incentives should be permanently in place but all should be subject to revision as needed. This can happen in America, but not in Europe where a great bureaucratic machine issues 100 irreversible edicts every day.
What do you see as the biggest challenge to the environmental movement here in the U.S.?
The biggest challenge to the movement is that of its capture by climate-change hysterics, who concentrate everyone’s attention on insoluble problems. The result of this is a kind of institutionalized despair, and a reluctance to address the problems that we really can solve, such as the problem of plastic pollution. The biggest challenge to the environment, as I see it, is the life-style of modern people – fast food, packaging, pets, urban sprawl, and other things which can be rectified only slowly and only through a concerted effort of education.
My plea to my environmental friends,
Give the President-elect a chance – you might be pleasantly surprised!
Now back to taking stock in the early pronouncements and attitudes of prominent environmental groups on this week’s election, many which run the gamut, reflecting deep hostility and skepticism to cautious optimism. Note that some organizations, like The Nature Conservancy, who generally avoid the messiness of politics, have remained silent.
The first bucket I group into the skeptical but willing to give the President-elect a chance.
The American people have spoken. They delivered a sweeping rejection of business as usual in Washington. They voted for change. They voted for something that, in all honesty, none of us has ever seen, or ever imagined we might see.
This campaign has tested our values. It has challenged our core beliefs. We vest faith, though, in our system of governance, even when we are disappointed in the outcome.
In our democracy, elections are definitive. The will of the people is inviolate. There is no higher authority in this land. Those are the stones this president stands on, as all of our presidents must.
Donald Trump is the president-elect. We will work with him every way we can.
The election of Donald Trump has profoundly altered the landscape in which environmentalists work. While environmental issues weren’t central to the campaign, President-elect Trump took positions during the campaign that were directly counter to ours — and contradicted by science. What didn’t change last night is our commitment to fight for a cleaner, healthier world. Our resolve is unshaken.
We are still assessing the challenges that lie ahead, but this much is clear: The next few years will bring some big fights and also some unpredictable fluidity. We will ferociously defend America’s bedrock environmental protections, both in Congress and the courts, and we are secure in the knowledge that a large majority of Americans supports those protections. We plan to focus significant legal resources on the battles that are coming.
Though much changed this week, EDF’s core approach remains unchanged. Our work has always been driven by the best science, and we will continue to stand up for scientific reality, including the reality and urgency of climate change. And by using the insights of economics, we create solutions that help people and nature to thrive — an approach that becomes all the more important with so many Americans on the left and right crying out for a brighter economic future.
Our ability to work with a broad range of interests in society is another strength we will build on. As we continue ramping up our work at the state level we will be alert to unexpected opportunities that may emerge to make progress. One of our political strengths has been finding opportunity where others see impasse — and that gift will be sorely needed in the days ahead – while always sticking to our core principles.
Above all, we’re ready to protect the climate progress of recent years. Defense, as I tweeted this morning, is our middle name. We will continue to find the ways that work.
The second bucket are more conciliatory and willing to challenge the status quo and DC gridlock.
As America’s largest conservation organization, the National Wildlife Federation congratulates President-elect Donald Trump and the newly elected Congress and commit to doing our part to work together to protect and restore America’s wildlife. During the campaign, President-elect Trump spoke out against the sale or privatization of cherished public lands, in support of wildlife conservation and expanding hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities and in favor of necessary infrastructure investments to address water quality crises, like the lead contamination in Flint. We look forward to working together to address these and other conservation challenges.
These elections were often polarizing and divisive, demonstrating a deep disaffection and frustration with government dysfunction in Washington, D.C. But there were signs of progress, especially in state ballot initiatives, as conservation funding overwhelmingly passed in Missouri and a measure to reduce wildlife trafficking sailed to victory in Oregon, and voters in Oklahoma defeated a constitutional amendment that would have removed state oversight of agricultural activities. These measures, as well as the election of both Republican and Democratic conservation champions across the nation, serve as reminders that Americans overwhelmingly support wildlife, clean water, clean air, a cleaner energy future, and action on climate change.
We believe that restoring our wildlife and America’s natural resources have the potential to unite Americans from both parties, from all backgrounds and walks of life. To that end, we look forward to navigating difficult issues with the Trump Administration, some of which include revitalizing coal country, ensuring clean water for all Americans, reforming government mandates and subsidies that harm wildlife, accelerating deployment of clean energy and addressing climate change, and restoring America’s public lands. We know that we can simultaneously enjoy both healthy natural resources and a vibrant national economy and we look forward to advancing these important policies at all levels of government to achieve real and lasting progress for America’s wildlife, great outdoors, and for current and future generations of conservationists.
[Note: As an alum of NWF, I’m extremely pleased to see the above olive-branch being extended by its newish President, Collin O’Mara, which is a sharp contrast to its past President. O’Mara shines the spotlight where it belongs.]
Yet others remain cynical to hostile and seem poised to use the election for more activism and opportunity for fundraising:
Not My Earth’s President!
Donald Trump is a grave threat to everything we stand for. He could unravel decades of hard-fought victories for people and the planet.
But that doesn’t mean we can stand by and do nothing while Trump tears apart our environmental protections. The stakes are too high.
The clock is ticking on preventing climate chaos. Bayer and Monsanto are poised to take control of even more of our food system. And Donald Trump is counting on us to give up and let it happen.
So we must join together, combine our strength, and stand proud to protect our precious Earth and all the life it supports.
We must stand together like we never have before. We are already mobilizing and launching an emergency campaign to stop Trump’s efforts to derail everything we’ve achieved in the last eight years.
Monthly giving is an easy way to make a difference every day. Your gift provides the resources to sustain long-term campaigns that lead to the permanent protection of our most precious resources.
URGENT: Urge President Obama to safeguard our environment from Donald Trump
What we do now in response will determine how catastrophic a polluter-controlled government will be for our environment and our communities. We must make sure President Obama does everything he can over the next couple months to protect our progress.
The results of this week’s election have been a shock for those of us who care about birds and the environment. Donald Trump made no secret during his campaign of his desire to do away with many of our current protections for air and water, and to facilitate unrestricted development of fossil fuels. He doesn’t believe that humans are causing climate change, and he might even try withdrawing America from the Paris Agreement, the largest global climate treaty in history.
This is going to be an extremely difficult four years.
The question is, what are we going to do about it? Just sit here and let terrible things happen to our beloved planet? Of course not. We’re going to roll up our sleeves and take a stand.
The good news is that there are lots of things each and every one of us can do to help, ranging from actions that take very little time, to others that can take your life in another direction. Either way, you’re needed more than ever. Birds can’t defend themselves from what’s about to happen.
Your scope can be local or national. There’ll be no shortage of things to do, and working hard to protect birds and their habitat in your town is just as important as working on a larger scale. In fact, since there are fewer voices in local issues, yours is all the more likely to be heard. The issue should come first. Find something you’re passionate about and work for it, no matter where you are.
Once you’ve figured out how to want to start advocating, here’s how to do it, beginning with the easier actions and building from there.
Join Up. If you’re not an official member of the Audubon Society or any other of the thousands of environmental non-profits out there, now’s the time. There is strength in numbers, and you need to be counted. These organizations will help you stay on top of the issues and provide you with opportunities to make your voice heard. Take the potential loss of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. That is an important issue that Florida Audubon has been key in raising awareness about and fighting against.
Yet others remain on high alert with their finger on the trigger, but reflect a greater degree of intellectual integrity, avoiding the overplay on opportunistic fundraising.
Donald Trump’s victory ushers in a new era of serious threats to American conservation. When the president-elect has previously weighed in on the issues that matter to us, his words have often run contrary to core American values about protecting our land and water. Pledges to deregulate and drill our way to prosperity without regard for the science and consequences of climate change ought to alarm every person who cares about our country (and planet).
We will work to hold President-elect Trump accountable and stand ready to repel any policies that would jeopardize bedrock conservation laws.
On the other hand, Trump and his campaign surrogates have been consistent on the record in supporting public lands and believing they need to stay protected for all Americans. These places are the country’s common ground, representing an opportunity to come together in the name of a cherished national ideal regardless of political party. We will work to hold President-elect Trump accountable, to stay true to these positive statements, and stand ready to repel any policies that would jeopardize bedrock conservation laws.
The presidency may be changing, but the threats posed by runaway climate change and unsustainable resource-use remain.
We urge the President-elect to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and to honor the commitments we’ve made to solve the climate crisis and to conserve the world’s oceans, forests and species. Large-scale investments in conservation and renewable energy and breakthroughs in sustainability will spur innovation, create thousands of good paying jobs, and reduce the emissions fueling climate change.
President-elect Trump pledged to make America safer. At a time when seas are rising and climate-driven superstorms pummel our cities with increasing regularity, ambitious climate action is necessary to deliver on that promise.
We know that global security and the world’s livelihoods depend on keeping intact those natural resources, including our climate, upon which we depend. For our part, we will continue to engage all the countries in the world, as well as America’s families, cities, states, businesses, and federal government to build bridges, and to fight, for the meaningful change we need, and for the planet that is our home.
[Note: Although not in total agreement with WWF, I have great respect for this organization that, on balance, does important work around the globe protecting threatened wildlife population.]
Time will tell.