Adaptation is crucial for survival. Species that cannot adapt quickly enough to changes in their environment — say, a shift in the climate, or the introduction of a new predator — go extinct. You can’t sit around wringing your hands, wishing the world was different, the way it was before. You have to face reality, and rise to meet it.
Today, I met with Team Threshold to discuss whether our plan for the show needs to shift in response to the election. We decided that it does. This election demands that we adapt.
The president-elect has promised to weaken or destroy major environmental laws, and has said he would like to abolish the EPA altogether. Whether this makes you want to shout with glee or hang your head in despair, one thing is clear: this is a big deal. This is not the typical squabbling between the right and the left — the new administration is promising an all-out assault on the basic infrastructure of our environmental protections.
Much of that infrastructure was put into place in the 1970s with bi-partisan support. The Endangered Species Act, for instance, was approved unanimously in the Senate, and passed the House on a 390–12 vote. And it was signed, with a flourish, by President Richard Nixon. That was December 28, 1973. I was just over a year old, so I didn’t know that protecting endangered plants and animals was a partisan thing. But then, neither did anybody else. At that point, taking care of the planet was seen as a universal value, an American value, and also, pragmatically, part of taking care of ourselves.
It’s hard to imagine that, looking back now. And in another 40-some years, we’ll look back at this moment, trying to understand what led up to it, and what it means. What will we see? Will this election mark the end of an era — is this the turning point, when we’ve decided that our air, water, and soil are clean enough, and that it’s costing us too much to try to protect them further? Is this when we will firmly decide to do nothing in regard to climate change, when we begin to let species go extinct without intervention, when we begin to privatize our public lands?
Maybe. But of course, we don’t really know. We don’t have a clear policy agenda to discuss, just a string of threats and rhetoric. So, this may end up not being a dramatic moment for the environment at all. Things could continue more as less as usual. (Of course, the “usual” has plenty of drama in it as well.) Or something else entirely may happen — some combination of policies we can’t quite imagine yet.
I’m not interested in making predictions. I’m interested in documenting what happens.
I think Threshold is well-positioned to serve an important purpose at this critical time. We have a special combination of commitments — to truth-telling, to empathy, to getting out into the field, to science, and to the power of story. When I started creating this show over a year ago, I wanted to make a space where it might be possible for people on opposing sides of an issue to really hear each other, or at least, to not hate each other. I think that’s our only hope for substantive progress.
Those intentions seem even more important now. So let me be clear — when I say we’re adapting, we’re not abandoning those guiding principles. We’re thinking about more ways of enacting them.
I’m not ready to describe exactly what we’re going to do — we need to do it a bit first — but I wanted you to know that we are on this. We see what a significant moment this is, and we are going to respond to it. We’re going to adapt, rise to meet the challenges at hand. And to be honest, I think we are about to kick some serious ass.
Stay tuned. And thank you,
Originally published at amymartin.org on November 19, 2016.