We saw it coming but that didn’t soften the blow. Nor have the many smart and wise things people have been writing about the disastrous exit from the Paris accord. In the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Washington Post, in Grist, and the newsletters of the myriad environmental organizations. In social media where thoughtful individuals have been wrestling with what has happened and why. So many cogent analyses to read. It could become a full-time job, this keeping up with the parade of horribles emanating from the White House with the force of a fire hose. A deliberate strategy, no doubt, diversion after diversion. Populism on steroids.
Some of the most pungent writing is coming from women who recognize the cruel and violent impulses spewing from our president’s damaged ego like a toxic lava stream. Rebecca Solnit, Gail Collins, Elizabeth Kolbert, even a tart word from J.K. Rowlings. Many others. Maybe the arrival of the movie, “Wonder Woman,” is a sign of the times.
In all of this — except in the confines of “the base” from which the flailing president is grasping for a hand hold — a wide and persuasive consensus has emerged that this calculated decision was fueled by dark money, motivated by political duplicity, made by an ignorant imposter, and applauded by an opportunistic political party that Noam Chomsky (not one for understatement) recently labeled “the most dangerous organization in world history.” An in-depth story in the Times over the weekend, far more sober, was no less sobering as Chomsky’s stark one-liner. There’s more to be said for sure. More to learn.
And much more to be done. In the face of this latest crime against humanity by our own president in our own names, what does resistance require? What impact can we have, each of us, any of us?
Existential question to which I and many of my friends still lack crisp answers, muddling along as we are, doing what we can, making calls, sending checks, organizing. “Persist. Resist, Insist,” read a bumper sticker in today’s mail. Doing all of that.
And continuing The Conversation about what more we can do as we gather in book clubs, on hikes or walks near the water, having lunch at work, in health centers, over coffee, wherever we can carve out time. In the fullness of time (however that may manifest), perhaps we can hope for greater clarity, sharper focus. Meanwhile time itself seems to be accelerating, and telescoping.
On Friday, David Leonhardt reminded his Times readers that “anger won’t solve the problem:”
“Those of us agonizing over the planet’s future have failed to win over enough of our fellow citizens to accomplish what we desperately believe to be necessary,” he pointed out, and “encouraged [his readers] to ponder this question: What would a more politically persuasive message about climate change sound like?”
No group has worked longer and harder to fashion a persuasive message about climate change than the legions of scientists who have devoted their lives and careers to this problem. They have watched the crisis unfold, like a slow-motion train wreck, have tried to apply the brakes, participated in endless meetings, hammering out a careful and responsible scientific consensus, distilled the evidence and drawn out its implications in report after report designed to cast the message in terms that will be heard, absorbed, understood. And acted on. None of that worked. So — uncharacteristically — they took to the streets.
This morning I had an email message from such a scientist, a friend who does sophisticated computer modeling of levels of CO-2 emissions worldwide and the potential impact of strategies to curb them. Her question now is whether to shift her focus to local, state and organizational efforts in the U.S.
That’s because the urgent question we now face as a country is whether and, if so, how America can continue as a responsible world citizen while in the grip of a recklessly irresponsible federal government. The answer is coming in as I write this. An impressive and rapidly growing list of leaders of U.S. cities and counties, states, colleges and universities, businesses and investment firms — have signed “an open letter to the international community indicating that We Are Still In.”
The letter ends with this paragraph:
In addition to this statement, since President Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, 211 Climate Mayors have adopted the Paris Agreement goals for their cities, 13 Governors have formed the bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance, and 17 governors have released individual statements standing by Paris. Today’s statement embraces this rapidly growing movement of subnational and civil society leaders, by announcing that not only are these leaders stepping forward, they are stepping forward together.
Forward together. Maybe we are turning a corner. If so, none too soon. Earlier today I received a clip of a radio interview with an MIT researcher whose life’s work the Trump administration had twisted to justify the Paris pull-out. In the euphoria of the extraordinary “We Are Still In” campaign, we can honor the scientists who have brought us to this point, honor their persistence and humility, their patriotism and their expertise, and we can look through their eyes at the length of the road they have traveled, and the one still stretching before us. Here’s the 2-minute interview. Listen straight through to the end. Then take a deep breath. We are still here.