It’s been a rough first week with the new president. The assault on the environmental issues we all care about has been swift. Many people took the wait and see approach but even before he was in office, it was clear that there was an agenda with the new administration. As President-elect Trump created his own TPP: Tillerson, Pruitt, and Perry wait and see, became despair and dismay within the sustainability community and a chorus of “this is so much worse than we thought” started spreading.
Many saw the reinstatement of the pipelines this week not only a blow to the environment but also to justice issues. I can’t remember another president who managed to disenfranchise so many people so quickly.
So, yes it’s been bad. Really bad, actually. But I am a double-down kind of gal. So I have created this list of 5 things to do to flex our muscles. We must seek hope and change. Wallowing in what’s happening is okay for awhile but we can’t let our president take away all the good work we’ve done. So grieve as much as you need to but don’t let this stop the work you can and have achieved.
Fresh out of ideas? Here are my top 5:
- Reinvest your stock portfolio, 401k or whatever else you have in the markets. One of the ways that businesses started sitting up and taking notice of sustainability is when institutions started taking existing investments and moving them out of coal, dirty energy, oil & gas and utilities. There are plenty of funds now that are fossil-free. Don’t like the pipelines? Are you invested in some type of general fund? To quote the movie Amityville Horror, GET OUT. Don’t delay any longer. Want more impact? At work, if your 401k plan doesn’t have a fossil-free option then ask that the manager offers one. Ask your alma mater to get out. Movement on Wall Street makes investors nervous. Looking to support companies who support clean energy or the environment? Apple and Google have robust solar plans. You can invest in car companies that have strong EV strategies. I hear Tesla is publicly traded ;0) Plus, there are a plethora of solar companies, wind companies and other companies working on sustainability. Check out our Business Directory Investment section to find someone who can help. Once you switch then let people know.
- Reduce usage of virgin plastic. Okay, I know this is easier said than done, but did you know one of the reasons the recycling market is so depressed is because there is so much natural gas being pumped in a pipeline near you? That it is cheaper to make virgin plastic than to recycle? So yes, this means you start pushing for things made out of recycled plastic. Start asking your favorite companies to commit to using recycled plastic. Send a tweet, email or facebook post asking companies to commit to using recycled plastics in their containers. Please take note: Yes, there is already so much natural gas available that the prices are dropping to make more new plastic. So why do we need all these new pipelines?
- Time to get your Energy Efficiency done. Natural gas is now the number one fuel in Georgia and many other Southern states used to generate electricity. Yes, it’s by far better than coal but it is also far worse than true renewable energies. Just like coal, natural gas, for the most part, is finite. Excluding natural gas pumped out of landfills, natural gas is a dirty and environmentally destructive process. Plus, a lot of Southern states including Florida and Georgia have to import all their natural gas. My loyal followers know how much I love solar, so you may be surprised that I recommending energy efficiency first. Well, there are two reasons: one doing energy efficiency projects is something you can do today! Two, for lots of projects you can get a rebate back from your local utility company. So go out today and insulate your house or change out your bulbs and then brag about it on Facebook. It’s okay. Not only are you doing your part to reduce demand, you are inadvertently educating your friends and family how they can save money too and they will love you even more for doing it.
- Write a letter, but not to the White House. I have seen all kinds of emails this week to write President Trump or write your Senator. Not to take away from folks who can sway elected officials at a national level, but I think writing President Trump is a complete waste time. This week demonstrated that he didn’t even care what his “own” party thought. He just signed things that allowed him to check off a bunch of his campaign promises. Will some of them stick? Absolutely, but some were meaningless and had no real action. So, no, I don’t even think 310 million letters will make a difference to President Trump. Here is what will make a difference: writing advertisers, tv networks, and your local mayor. Everyone knows that our current president is all over the media. So want to get someone’s attention? Write advertisers who support Trump businesses or TV shows to tell them you are boycotting their products because of the ethical conflict you have with their support of Trump’s agenda.
Even with President Obama, anyone who was paying attention knows it was the mayors who are fighting environmental degradation day in and day out. So ask your Mayor to do even more or volunteer to be on your local sustainability board. Don’t have a local sustainability board? Ask your Mayor to start one. Then start on things like making solar easier to install through your local permitting process, start asking your local government to set-up purchasing policies that supports recycled content, ask for expansion of recycling, LED replacement in all street lights and all the other hundreds of things we do each day to save the environment. That old cliché about think global, act local could not be truer today. Leadership in cities is where real change can happen right now, starting today.
- Stop using the words climate change. I know people are going to howl over this one but I am all about orthopraxy versus orthodoxy. I know big fancy theological terms. It all boils down to this. Orthopraxy is finding the best way to do something or practice something. Orthodoxy is arguing about how you say something. Clearly, I think words matter or I wouldn’t take time to write this, but I have been speaking all over the state of Georgia this past year. I have been teaching Climate Justice and Sustainability in churches and to United Methodist Women groups. The most important thing you can do as a teacher is know your audience and use terminology that persuades them to be open to what you are teaching. It’s a safe bet when in Claxton, Georgia that climate change is going to shut down some people’s brains and therefore their hearts. So, I have stopped using climate change except to say that I am not going to talk about climate change. I know there are intellectuals out there that think that is silly. Everyone should just agree. but that is why we are in the mess we are in. Because those of us blessed with more experience, exposure and education just think people who don’t think like us are secondary citizens, or backwards. I will confess, I have those thoughts too sometimes, but I am not giving up on people who don’t agree. The best way to reach people who think climate change is a hoax is to give them respect and dignity and find a way to communicate with them. And guess what? It works! One of my favorite memories from my teaching last year was the woman who walked into my class and said I don’t believe in climate change and walked out saying you convinced me. By giving up on people who think climate change is a hoax, then you are just as guilty of having a closed mind as they are. Find common ground and then either through example or discussion respect the denier and find a way to challenge that belief without an argument. I’ve been listening to a podcast that has really helped with this concept called Ask Science Mike. He says it so much more eloquently than I have.
So yes, this is a lot of work but we have to do it. If we stop and become moribund over one elected person then everyone loses. So please don’t give up. Just double –down and do it.