The election is over. Our resolve isn’t.
By Rhea Suh
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.
This much, though, is equally clear. Whatever people voted for, it was not to turn back the clock on the foundational safeguards we’ve put in place over the course of two generations to protect the natural systems that support all life. It was not to return to the day when big polluters pillaged our natural resources for profits with impunity. It was not to walk away from needed progress to fight climate change, at home and abroad, by anchoring our future to the dirty fuels of the past. And it certainly was not to deny our fellow Americans their basic right to safe drinking water, clean air and healthy communities simply because of their income or skin color.
We know this because polls across the spectrum show us that eight Americans in every ten are worried about the quality of our waters and nearly that many are concerned about our air and the prospect of mass wildlife extinctions; that seven in ten are counting on our government to take real action to protect our children from the growing dangers of climate change; and that none of us believes a mother anywhere should have to worry that her tap water might pose a danger to her children’s health.
During a campaign largely devoted to denigration and demagoguery, Trump seldom touched on these vital issues. We have precious little from him in the way of policy guidelines. What he has said, though, in speeches, on his campaign website and in his official platform, amounts to a full-on assault against the common sense safeguards we depend on to protect the natural systems that support all life.
He’s vowed to roll back the progress we’re making in cleaning up the dirty power plants that account for 40 percent of the dangerous carbon pollution in this country that’s driving climate chaos. He said he would “cancel” the historic Paris accord, a signature achievement of U.S. diplomacy, that sets the United States, China, India and more than 180 other countries on the course to shift away from oil, gas and coal and toward cleaner, smarter ways to power our future. And he’s promised to slash away at the responsible public oversight we need to reduce the risks of fossil fuel production, shipment and consumption.
That’s a bankrupt agenda we will not countenance. It would set us back a generation in a fight for our future we can’t afford to lose. It’s not what anyone voted for, it’s the wrong direction for our country and we will fight it tooth, nail and hair.
Progress seldom occurs in a straight line — in this movement, or any other. We’ve faced setbacks before. We’ve faced White House opposition before. We’ll show up, stand up and speak up for our cause, just as we’ve always done. The stakes are too high for anything less.
And we’ll work to build on our base of support. Because, the truth is, it’s time for every American who cares about a livable world — Republican and Democrat alike — to do everything we can to defend our environment and health. If Donald Trump thinks he can unleash a big polluter assault on our air, waters, wildlife and lands, we’ll build a wall of opposition to stop him. Whatever else we may have done on Election Day, we haven’t turned away from generations of common sense environmental safeguards. And we’re not about to turn away now.
Rhea Suh is president of the NRDC Action Fund.