Climate Emergency: Where Exactly Are We?

My last post lamented that, when it comes to global climate change, our planetary house is on fire.  That was five months ago.  The house hasn’t completely burned down yet, but only because it’s a fairly big house.  So today let’s look at this question: Where exactly are we?

Things didn’t look too good five months ago.  Today they look worse.  In the interim there have been a few hopeful signs: a growing youth movement here in the U.S., fueled by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s recent low carbon visit.  H.Con.Res.52, a National Declaration of Climate Emergency, was introduced in the House of Representatives and has steadily gained cosponsors.  The national political debate, such as it is, increasingly discusses the climate crisis – rather than avoiding it as in 2016.

Naomi Klein understood the urgency of the climate crisis more than five years ago.

My activist group, Orange County for Climate Action (OCCA), hosted an event in September called “Wake Up, O.C.!”  This was our attempt to focus residents living within the Orange County bubble on treating the climate emergency with the degree of urgency that is called for, and whatever we are already doing, from both an individual and political standpoint, do more.

On a personal level, I’ve been trying my best.  Over the past five years I’ve converted my yard to drought-tolerant landscaping, gone vegan, bought an electric vehicle, and converted our home to rooftop solar.  A fair number of people within my activist community have done likewise.  Within the Orange County bubble, those who can afford to do these things, should.

Greta Thunberg’s hope in coming to the U.S. was that we here would reach a “tipping point” at which mass support for meaningful national policies to deal with the climate emergency (such as a Green New Deal) would reach a level where our political leadership would respond.  We didn’t.  Greta has now gone back to Spain to attend the COP25 global climate conference, which was hastily moved to Madrid due to civil unrest in Santiago, Chile, the original host city.

So, still, the question is, where exactly are we?

Well, here is where we are.  Global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase every year since 2015, the year of the Paris Climate Agreement.  The U.S. and China continue to be the biggest polluters.  Despite robust growth in the electric vehicle market, American consumers have shifted toward SUVs and pickups; Ford has virtually stopped manufacturing sedans, while making plans – slowly – to enter the EV market.  And thanks to the fracking boom, oil companies now have long range plans to inject even more plastic into the consumer marketFederal subsidies continue to prop up fossil fuels, meat and dairy production, carbon footprint and environmental devastation of these industries be damned.

We have been striking now for over a year, and still basically nothing has happened.

– Greta Thunberg

In short, we keep digging ourselves into a deeper hole.  The recent U.N. report now states that we need to reduce GHG emissions by 7.6% each year from 2020 through 2030.  Who believes this will happen?

And remember that in the background – or foreground – of all this we currently have a president with the intelligence of an underperforming third-grader, the empathy of a sledgehammer, and the integrity of a cow pie.  Sorry, but adequate metaphors fail me.  His greatest talent seems to be parroting the charges made against him and turning them against his many adversaries.  I won’t spend time here delving into all the disastrous retrograde policies that have flowed from his administration and its soulless enablers.

Yeah, it’s tough to see hope here.  It appears that we have a global climate emergency and nobody cares.  Never in the history of mankind have the forces of corporate capitalism and industry been so heavily entrenched against doing all the things we need to do to address the climate emergency.  Our slim hope is pinned on the strong emotional response of the masses (who hold little power) to a Swedish sixteen-year-old with aspergers who, ironically, understands more about where we are than all the politicians and elitists around the globe.  For some, our hope is pinned on Roger Hallam and Extinction Rebellion, who operate on the cutting edge of civil disobedience, which can remain nonviolent only until it evokes a violent response from power.

Extinction Rebellion

These populist movements must continue, even if they ultimately come to naught.  Those who understand what’s required also need to take all the individual actions possible, even if individual action is never cumulatively sufficient.  There are no other choices for climate activists, except to give up, which is unthinkable.

I’ve always maintained that having even a little hope is enough to keep myself going.  Tragically, we seem to be entering an era where we must keep going even as hope dwindles to a fine point, or vanishes altogether.

Climate Emergency: House on Fire

Sometimes we need to step back and look at the big picture.  For me, this is one of those times.

Holy Fire from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, August 2018

For the past five years I’ve called myself a climate activist.  I interact daily with others – friends, colleagues, acquaintances – whom I also consider to be climate activists.  Since we all got into this, though, things have changed.  On the positive side, the past ten months or so have seen a significant uptick in public awareness, political discussion, and media coverage of what is now increasingly recognized as a “climate emergency.”  We have last October’s “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5° C” by the IPCC and a 16-year-old student activist from Sweden named Greta Thunberg to thank for this belated awakening.

But on the negative side, world leaders have made negligible progress during this same time in dealing with this emergency.  Worse yet, those who currently hold political and economic power in Washington, DC, are perniciously exacerbating the crisis: pulling out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement (insufficient as it is), rolling back greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations, freezing automobile fuel economy standards, and disingenuously trying to bring back a destructive, dying coal industry.  This is national idiocy in its highest form.  But we need to understand that such idiocy is explained by the inability – unwillingness – of free-market capitalism to respond to changing circumstances, even when those circumstances threaten the habitability of our planet by human, animal, and plant life.

Meanwhile, the activist community, the community I have chosen to be a part of, has trouble keeping up.  Many joined this community when Trump was elected in 2016, but by that time these negative trends were already long underway.  Many people new to climate activism are brimming with energy, enthusiasm, and hope.  Some focus on individual change and leading by example:  put solar panels on your roof, buy an EV, go vegan, refuse plastic, reduce waste (I do these things myself).  Others view the political and economic landscape and believe that compromise and incremental progress offer the only practical path to deal with the climate crisis.  Still others try to reach the climate deniers and persuade them, with science, logic and reason, that climate change is “real” and must be addressed.

Recently others (myself included), inspired by Greta Thunberg and a burgeoning youth movement, hope that the younger generations will speak truth to power (like Greta) and get power to listen, finally building a critical mass to force political change.

The problem is, we’re running out of time, after decades of inaction.  Having been at this longer than many, I personally feel a growing sense of desperation.  It’s too late for educating the masses, awakening the apathetic, growing the circle, compromising on incremental solutions or bridging the political divide, which grows wider with each passing day.  I recognize and appreciate the good intentions of climate activists who pursue these avenues, but I’m losing patience with the entire movement.  To paraphrase Greta Thunberg, when the house is on fire, you don’t sit down and talk about it.

Now allow me to digress for just a moment.  Beyond climate change, there are many other national emergencies, long-neglected, that are competing – no, collaborating – with one another to distract us from climate emergency and degrade us as a nation: a permanent war economy, money in politics, neglect of education, broken health care, dysfunctional immigration policies, nuclear waste, gun violence, mass incarceration, racism, voter suppression, materialism, consumer capitalism, growing income inequality, addiction, speciesism, loss of human connection.

My view of American exceptionalism is this: we are rapidly becoming a shithole country. But what is really beyond the pale, for me, is that forty million some Americans seem to be okay with much of this.

I’ll admit to some degree of activist burnout, but I won’t forgive myself for it.  Coming back to the climate emergency, Bill McKibben has been at this far longer than most of us.  Naomi Klein has been at it for years, with great intensity and wisdom.  It is now increasingly probable that methane release from melting polar ice will, at some unknown but imminent future date, render all possible mitigation and adaptation measures inadequate.  We are likely destined to face increased environmental destruction and human suffering in the short, medium, and long term.

Hopefully some subset of human, plant and animal life will survive on a diminished Earth.  This might be all the hope we have left.  So while this is no time to give up, it is definitely time to panic.  The house is indeed on fire.

The Green New Deal: Go Big or Go Home

Picking up where my last post left off, 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg told climate negotiators this at the U.N. conference in Poland last year: “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done instead of what is politically possible, there is no hope.  We cannot solve the crisis without treating it as a crisis.”

Most of our political leaders, and too many ordinary citizens, either don’t understand this or don’t want to hear it.  But some do.  That is why H. Res. 109 – Green New Deal (GND) for short – was introduced in the House of Representatives in February by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  It was introduced in response to the October 2018

“Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C,” issued by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The title of the resolution is, “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.”  As AOC herself admits, if it were passed by Congress and somehow not vetoed by the occupant of the White House, nothing changes.  It’s a resolution, not legislation.  But the beauty of it is that it’s the first proposal in Washington that attempts to address climate change on a scale that matches the urgency and magnitude of the crisis.  It represents a commitment to act; it defines a vision.  If passed, a great deal of legislation would follow.

We can infer from the name “Green New Deal” that H. Res. 109’s ninety-one cosponsors look back favorably on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” of the 1930s, which helped lift the U.S. economy out of the Great Depression.  FDR’s New Deal was never a resolution; rather, it was a sequence of hard-won legislation that evolved into an overarching policy of saving the U.S. economy, while at the same time “lifting all boats,” not just the rich and powerful.  The Green New Deal attempts to leverage the lessons of history by defining similar policies to address two modern crises together: the climate crisis and the economic crisis.  (Those who recoil at progressives’ use of the word “crisis,” or don’t believe we are in one, are free to stop reading.)

So what’s in H. Res. 109, the Green New Deal?  Its goals and projects are to:

  • Rapidly phase out fossil fuel use, achieving net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050;
  • Overhaul national infrastructure, by building energy-efficient, “smart” power grids, upgrading existing buildings and constructing new buildings to achieve maximum energy and water efficiency;
  • Remove pollution and GHG emissions from the transportation and agricultural sectors;
  • Clean up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites;
  • Create and guarantee jobs with family-sustaining wages, adequate family and medical leave, and retirement security;
  • Address the needs of frontline and vulnerable communities (climate/economic justice).

The resolution includes some even higher aspirations:

  • Public investment, with returns going back to the public;
  • Strengthen the social safety net;
  • Promote justice and equality;
  • Ensure businesspersons are free from unfair competition and domination by domestic or international monopolies;
  • Provide higher education, high quality health care, and affordable, safe and adequate housing to all.

Small-government, anti-tax advocates deride the Green New Deal as pie in the sky.  Their favorite line of attack is, how much would this cost?  The answer – given looming climate destruction, the state of American education and access to health care, our neglected infrastructure, and the number of citizens in poverty – is that the cost of doing this is far less in the long run than the true cost of not doing it.

Certainly the Green New Deal is a huge reach, but I find some hope in how far American thinking has come in just the past eight months.  Just last summer, many of the ideas in the Green New Deal would have been laughed out of Washington.  Now climate change has finally been elevated in the national conversation by the release of the IPCC report.  Climate change is discussed in the mainstream media nearly every day.  H. Res. 109 has ninety-one cosponsors in the House of Representatives, and a sizable number of Democratic presidential candidates have embraced it.

Bill McKibben, in his brand new book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, writes, “… because of the way power and wealth are currently distributed on our planet, I think we’re uniquely ill-prepared to cope with the emerging challenges.  So far, we’re not coping with them.” The Green New Deal defines a bold vision that, if implemented in time, might still fix this.

H.R. 763 – A Tax That’s Not a Tax, A Solution That’s Not a Solution

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a 12-year-old nonprofit that has long been laser-focused on lobbying members of the U.S. Congress for “carbon fee and dividend” legislation, has been in celebratory mode since the 2018 midterms, because a bill, H.R. 763, Energy Innovation and Carbon Fee Dividend Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives in January of this year.

Mini-sculpture by Isaac Cordal

This post reflects my views of H.R. 763, based on my knowledge as a long-time climate activist, and my own research as well as considerable debate and discussion with members of CCL. It is, of necessity, a bit long.  I urge you to plunge in and stick with it, though, because the content and features of this bill are critically important to how our federal government might choose, if at all, to deal with the urgency of the global climate crisis.

The Bill

A summary of H.R. 763 appears on congress.gov.  I’ll summarize its major features here:

  • It proposes an escalating tax (“fee”) on the carbon content of fuels used such that greenhouse gases (GHG) are emitted into the atmosphere.  This fee is imposed at the source, for example, at the well-head.
  • All revenues collected (after administrative costs) are returned equally to each citizen as a dividend, to mitigate the anticipated increase in price of fossil fuels.
  • A “border adjustment” is imposed on imported fuels, so as not to give a cost advantage to fuels extracted outside the U.S. and brought in through global trade.
  • The bill includes exemptions for fuels used for agricultural purposes, and fuels used by the Armed Forces (a whole lot).
  • The bill contains an amendment to the Clean Air Act; it imposes a moratorium on regulations by the EPA that limit GHG emissions.

Cosponsors

Since January H.R. 763 has been slowly gaining cosponsors.  Although CCL’s strategy has been all about bipartisanship, as of this writing the bill has 26 cosponsors: 25 Democrats and only one Republican.  Read on to see more about the effectiveness of bipartisanship as a political strategy in today’s Washington.

My Analysis

H.R. 763 is a mess.  In keeping with CCL’s passionate commitment to bipartisanship, it avoids use of the word “tax,” choosing to call it a “fee” instead.  Note, too, the absence of the word “climate” in the bill’s title.  Also in the interest of bipartisanship, CCL favors market-based solutions and revenue neutrality.  (We wouldn’t want to use carbon tax revenue for things like climate adaptation, would we?)

Notwithstanding the amendment to the Clean Air Act, H.R. 763 does talk about re-enabling EPA’s regulatory authority if the bill’s GHG targets are not met.  But there are two problems here, buried in the fine print:

  1. There are no emissions reduction targets at all in the bill until 2022 (or 2024?  I can’t tell for sure without consulting my attorney.)
  2. Whether the bill’s targets are being met will be assessed in – drum roll – the year 2030.  That’s roughly the date by which last year’s IPCC report says we need to have drastically reduced CO2 emissions, if we are to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100.

For me, though, the worst aspect of H.R. 763 is the proposed amendment to the Clean Air Act, that is, the moratorium (even though partial) on GHG regulations by the EPA.  If, as 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg says, the house is on fire (translation: the climate crisis is urgent), why pass legislation that permits putting out the fire with chemicals, but in the meantime prohibits the use of water hoses?  Why attack an existential threat with your right hand, while tying your left hand behind your back?

Cynical as it may sound, here is my view.  H.R. 763 has been crafted as a bill that the fossil fuel industry can love, or at least tolerate.  The industry would rather see nothing done in Washington, D.C. to address the climate crisis, but if Congress insists on doing something, this bill would be relatively harmless.  Squashing the possibility of those pesky EPA regulations might even help the industry.

And if fossil fuel companies have no objection to it, then it’s safe for Republicans, awash in campaign contributions from those same companies, to cosponsor or vote for it.

But why the Democrat sponsors?  In my view, there could be several reasons.  First, many Democrats take fossil fuel money, too.  Second, the bill is lengthy, complicated, and difficult to understand, so some Democrats may have been persuaded based on the general concept of a carbon tax, without having explored the gory details.  And finally, notably, few Democrats I would characterize as the most progressive members of Congress have yet signed on.

Climate Solutions Caucus

For years CCL has been jumping on airplanes and flying to Washington to persuade members of Congress to join the “Climate Solutions Caucus.”  A ground rule for this caucus is that it be 50-50 Republican-Democrat; a Democrat cannot join until there is a new Republican to maintain the 50-50 balance.  In the past, some climate-denying Republicans have joined the caucus, just to polish their image with constituents.

What kind or strategy is this?  Thanks to the “blue wave” in the 2018 midterms, at least 23 Republicans were defeated for reelection (some were climate deniers – hooray!).  The result is that the Climate Solutions Caucus can no longer claim 90 House members.

I was curious about this, so just yesterday I checked the CCL website to see who’s left in the caucus.  Interestingly, CCL still claims 90 members, complete with photos.  If you’re politically informed, you’ll probably recognize some familiar faces there who are no longer serving in Congress.

What Would Greta Thunberg Say?

Climate activists these days ask one another, “What would Greta Thunberg say?”  What might Greta have to say about H.R. 763?  Maybe something like what she told climate negotiators at the U.N. conference in Poland last year:  “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done instead of what is politically possible, there is no hope.  We cannot solve the crisis without treating it as a crisis.

Modern capitalism and the free market have failed for decades to address the climate crisis.  Greta is right. Keep in mind that the house is on fire.

Musk, Trump, and Tesla

The title ought to get your attention.

I’ve felt considerable angst lately over the behavior of Elon Musk and its potential impact on Tesla, the car company.  It truly pains me to use the names Musk and Trump together in the same vicinity – or even in the same universe – but, unfortunately, I think a comparison of these two outsize personalities right now might be instructive.

My interest in Tesla is twofold:  first, as the ecstatic owner of a gleaming white Tesla Model 3 long-range, which I was upsold after the originally promised $35K sedan didn’t materialize (no hard feelings or regrets, though); and, second, as a climate activist who fervently believes that, to have any shot at a livable planet for humans, as long as we continue to need automobiles they must be electric.

Elon Musk believes this, too.  That’s why he started Tesla and has risked so much of his personal fortune.  That’s why Tesla is far and away ahead of the competition in design and development of electric vehicles.  And right now, just in the last three months, Tesla is outselling all the competition: ICE (internal combustion engine), electric, and hybrid – many times over.

Then comes Musk’s recent aberrant behavior.  Okay, he’s overworked, sleep-deprived, and under a lot of stress.  Tesla believers, including me, cut him a fair amount of slack for that, but enough is enough.  Horrifyingly, his recent behavior on Twitter and in the public eye begs for comparison to Trump’s.

First let’s get a few things straight.  Elon Musk is a visionary and a technical genius; Trump is an ignorant slob and a con artist who’s spent his whole life using wealth inherited from his father to screw other people.  Elon Musk is several orders of magnitude more intelligent than Trump.  Musk is well-intentioned and Trump is mean-spirited.  Musk has a soul and wants to save the world; Trump “lacks the capacity for empathy” (to put it mildly) and cares only about himself.  Both have sizable egos, but beneath Musk’s lies justified self-confidence, while beneath Trump’s lies pathetic insecurity and approval-seeking.

Now for one sad similarity.   Both take to Twitter or make outrageous statements in moments where they lose their self-control (in Trump’s case, nearly every day).

Musk knows better and should not do this.  He puts at risk his mission to save the world and tests the good will and considerable financial outlay of loyal Tesla owners as well as investors.

His announcement via Twitter of taking Tesla private was ill advised; it showed bad judgment.  With the recent settlement he dodged a bullet and avoided a prolonged, ugly investigation by the SEC.  His accusations of pedophilia are mystifying.  His flaunting of smoking pot was just stupid and unnecessary.  His continuing to insult investors and the SEC is playing with fire.

I get how he feels.  To some extent I share his skepticism of the capitalists and the traditional financial pundits.  I definitely share his contempt for the short sellers who want Tesla to die.  It’s not his fault that every time he discusses his plans in public the market goes crazy.

But shut up, Elon.  Keep your head down and keep doing what you do best:  building those awesome cars.  I worry what might happen to Tesla without Elon Musk.  So please, Elon, put a sock in it and behave yourself.  You owe it to all the new loyal Tesla owners and future buyers, and you owe it to the world you hope to save.

How To Respond to the Red Hats?

Now there is a new debate raging over what is the appropriate level of vitriol we should sink to in protesting the conduct of the Trump administration.  His royal orangeness, obviously, in his position of presidential power, has set the bar about as low as you can go.  The unprecedented level of dissent on our side that has manifested itself during his term has thus far proved ineffective.  So it’s logical to ask, is it time for us to pull out the stops and become as nasty and mean-spirited as he and his supporters?

This debate is, in itself, a further distraction from the damage being done daily by the current administration and our feckless public servants in Washington.  I honestly can’t decide how low I should go, how much of my anger and outrage I should release on anyone within earshot.  What I do feel “confident” about, though, is that, regardless of tactics, we are unlikely to succeed in reaching or moving the other side.  “Bipartisanship” in today’s America is about as likely as the Rapture.  What I am quite convinced of is that I’m condemned to feeling entirely uncomfortable and distraught living among those who, after a year and a half, still believe we’re making America great again.

A Simple Hello

I just visited my own website for the first time in months.  No wonder most of my visitors lately are web developers offering me their services to increase traffic on my site!

So today’s post is just a simple hello, a sign that, yes, I’m still alive in the age of Trump.  The image at the left is intended to grab your attention.  Please don’t read too much into it.  The hand is mine; the tomato is from our garden, from a plant that kept bearing fruit all through the winter and is now going gangbusters as spring weather arrives.  The tiny sombrero, knitted by my wife, rests on the tomato so that the appendage will hopefully be seen as a nose rather than something else that is better left unspoken.

My website is supposed to be about books.  Despite my silence – or perhaps because of it – I’ve been reading and reading and reading.  In my view the country would be much better off if more Americans did the same.  Take this post as a heads-up, and a promise that there will be more book posts coming soon.  I’ve read some incredible, important books already this year – and published a novel that I haven’t yet even posted on my own site.  I will remedy this in the coming days/weeks/months.

In the meantime I hope you’re all able to serpentine your way through the daily distractions and normalized dysfunction, and stay focused on the good that still exists out there when we understand where to look for it.

So, hello.

 

Paris and the Fool

Apparently the bee under our so-called president’s orange comb-over is telling him today to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.  There might be a few fanatics in his administration, like Steve Bannon or Scott Pruitt, encouraging him to pull out, but nearly everyone else – all 194 other nations in the Accord (which is all the other nations of the world except Syria and Nicaragua), all the other nations in the G7, his own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, even Exxon and Chevron, would prefer the U.S. to stay in the agreement.  Of course Tillerson and the oil companies are most likely just cynically wanting a “seat at the table” so they can slow the agreement down or undermine it.

It’s even possible that Trump will wake up at 4 a.m. tomorrow and tweet that he’s changed his mind and will keep us in (he loves that feeling of power), but at this point it hardly matters.  He’s already signaled to the rest of the world that the federal government of the (formerly) leader of the free world has collapsed into utter dysfunction.  Those of us who pay attention to these matters know quite well that we can’t count on Congress for anything – this has been true for some time – nor can we depend on the Supreme Court, nor, least of all, on the current Executive Branch.   Activists like me can convince ourselves to keep being activists only by believing that someday this idiocy in Washington will end.  But there’s no guarantee that it will.

Meanwhile the rest of the world will try to forge ahead without us, hoping that the U.S. is merely irrelevant on the global stage, as opposed to taking the rest of the world down with it.

Our New World

Thanks to the convoluted election last November, we now live in a new world.  All the old conventional wisdom, predictive models, political rules, and media behavior no longer apply.  Facts are no longer facts, or at least we can’t be certain about them.  Every day since November 8, and even more so since January 20, I wake up not knowing what to expect.  Every day is a new adventure and a series of disturbing surprises.

Nonetheless, now, a mere four days into the Trump administration (the term dignifies the man too flatteringly), we can see certain patterns emerging.  This is not to say that we can predict any better what policies of the Trump administration will be advanced; we can merely see, with greater clarity, the array of factors that will influence those policies.

First there are Trump’s character issues:  his narcissism, his psychopathy, his attention deficit.  These characteristics – rather frightening in a president of the United States – have manifested themselves already, since his inauguration, in his obsession with losing the popular vote and with attendance at his inauguration (he can’t let this go) and a spewing of executive orders in his first two working days.  Yes, those same “executive order” things that President Obama was attacked for issuing only days and weeks ago.  Already he has ordered some convoluted repeal guidelines for the Affordable Care Act.  He has officially “killed” the Trans-Pacific Partnership, even though it was already dead all but ceremonially.  Today he “resurrected” Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines (but be of good cheer – the pipes will now be made in the U.S.).  After signing each order, he turns it toward the cameras for show and tell.  Get used to this.

Meanwhile, the second factor influencing the Trump era is the ideology of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the right-wing GOP.  Provided they can bamboozle Trump into signing the crap that comes out of the 115th Congress, we can expect their legislative will to be forced down the throats of the rest of us.

The third influence is the plutocrats who will be meekly approved by Congress to serve in Trump’s cabinet.  We already knew that the plutocrats have bought and paid for most of what comes out of the federal government.  Now we see them occupying key government positions directly and operating the levers of power themselves.  I can’t wait until all those Trump supporters realize that the man they elected has royally screwed them over.

With today’s executive orders, we see the climate justice movement set back probably thirty years.  In the coming weeks we can kiss the Supreme Court goodbye.  It might not be all bad, though.  Bernie Sanders also opposed the TPP (me, too); once in a while something good might happen.  The problem is, the bulk of what comes out of this administration will have nothing to do with what’s good for people, the country, or the planet; it will merely be whatever sausage comes out of this meat-grinder of newly competing forces:  Trump’s sick personality, whatever best serves gigantic American corporations, and GOP right-wing ideology (often in line with gigantic American corporations).

What to do?  Follow the sage advice of Bernie Sanders and Michael Moore:  Call your elected officials every day (I’m serious).  And every month or every week or so, we’ll need another Women’s March.  The revolution must continue.

It won’t be easy, but it’s our only hope.

Big Mistake

America – whoever and whatever America is anymore – has made a mistake.  It isn’t America’s first mistake, only one of many, but probably the worst ever, at a time when we can least afford it.

In two weeks our illustrious Electoral College (does anyone know who these people are?) will bestow the presidency upon a total incompetent; a man who knows less about history than you and I do and doesn’t read; a man with some serious psychological issues; a man with no moral values, no direction, no motivation except to feed his own ego and serve his own interests; a man who is already being manipulated by the very establishment he railed against only to win votes.  Each coming day will bring new surprises.

My morning cup of coffee in hand, I brace myself as I venture into the day’s news.  The Paris climate accord may be toast.  Keystone XL might not be as dead as we thought.  And the Dakota Access Pipeline?  Perhaps we’ll have a civil war over it.  Healthcare is at risk.  The prospective education secretary is a minion of the Koch brothers, so we can expect charter schools and privatized education as the way of the future.  Republicans call this “school choice.”  The EPA may be dismantled.  (Was EPA the agency that Rick Perry couldn’t remember he wanted to eliminate?)  The First Amendment might have a few footnotes added to it, but the Second Amendment is quite safe, secure, and open to broad interpretation.  Our new attorney general is probably a racist.  Within four years the Supreme Court will be lost to us for generations.  Our foreign policy, sorry as it already is, will become nothing but a schmooze game, depending on who our new president thinks are “great leaders” and which nations have “really nice people.”

Republicans have won yet again by successfully gaming the system.  That same illustrious Electoral College will choose as president the candidate who lost the popular vote by the biggest margin ever.  (Yes, there are parts of the Constitution that need review, interpretation, and possible revision.  The founders didn’t cover all the bases.  Who knew?)  Voter suppression no doubt played a role in Republican victories, too, despite the district courts’ last-minute efforts to beat it down in North Carolina and elsewhere.  And voter apathy played a part, as overall turnout was slightly lower than in 2012.  Many voters, faced with disappointing choices, apparently failed to see the apocalypse coming.  Finally, Republicans once again pulled off what they do best:  convince people to vote against their own interests.

The smug grins on the faces of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are premature.  Those guys can’t possibly understand yet what they have on their hands.

One thing this election made painfully clear is the pathetically inadequate alternative that the Democratic Party offered to us.  If the Republican Party is the party of big money, the Democratic Party is their understudy.  The Clinton machine and the Party along with her took all the money from all the big donors, while ignoring the blue collar white guys Republicans were busy duping in rural areas of the country.  Add not-so-subtle racism to the Republican side of the equation, and the contest is over.  One thing I learned from this election is, it’s too soon to write off the voting power of angry old white guys.

Progressives still find themselves without a party to represent them.  This outcome is all the more tragic because we came so close.  Bernie Sanders, the most honest man ever to serve in Washington, made a Herculean effort to turn the Democratic Party progressive and very nearly pulled it off.  I blame the Democratic Party machine for sidelining him; had they not, he would be our new president.

My progressive friends and I now find ourselves alone.  The vision inspired by the Sanders campaign still burns within us, but the future seems grim.  We’re really having trouble dealing with this.  I have a friend who has stopped showing up for our Monday morning coffee group, preferring for now to withdraw into music, arts, and entertainment.  The wife of a friend of mine is seeing a counselor; I hope her counselor didn’t vote for the other guy.  Another colleague, one of the most passionate and dedicated activists I know, is taking a much needed break, but I worry she might be drifting toward despair.  I hope I’m wrong.

As for me, my customary wall of cynicism has lately failed me.  I’m struggling to contain my anger; anger seems to be my final defense against despair.  One thing I know, though.  We progressives need each other more than ever.  If we withdraw into ourselves, then we lose for sure.  And the pain will be unbearable.

So I plan to keep doing what I’ve been doing:  anything I can to push back against climate change and environmental destruction.  All the other progressive causes matter to me, too, but I’m finding it challenging enough to work even within these self-imposed limits.  And soon it will be even harder.

Every presidential election cycle lately I’ve considered leaving the country if Republicans won.  Now would certainly be the time, but strangely, I’ll try to stay.  There’s talk, anyway, that right-wing movements in the Netherlands, France, Austria, and Germany have been emboldened by America’s sham election.  Having once lived abroad, I’ve long viewed Western Europe as a potential safe haven.  Perhaps not anymore.  So mostly I plan to hunker down and pray that California’s firewall holds against the coming federal assault.

There are still a few who say they are optimistic about the future.  Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders are among them.  I hope they are sincere about this, but even if they’re not I want to believe them.  Obama, for all the shortcomings and disappointments of his administration, at least had righteous intentions; I’m eager to see what he does in his post-presidency.  And Sanders I trust to doggedly persist in growing his progressive message, regardless of whatever position he holds in Washington and whatever obstacles he faces.

There.  After nearly a month of shock, mourning, and speechlessness, I think I’ve managed to unload some things that have been weighing on my mind.  Do I feel better now?

No, not really.