Now what? Many people in the United States and around the world are dismayed that a bigoted, misogynistic, climate change denier has been elected to the highest office in what is still the world’s most powerful nation. His party controls the House and Senate, meaning pro-fossil-fuel, anti-climate-action representatives who reject overwhelming and alarming scientific evidence will hold the reins. It will be a government firmly in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry. But global warming isn’t going to pause for four years. It’s going to accelerate. Do we give up?
No way! Governments move slowly at the best of times. People were filled with hope when Barack Obama became America’s first black president. Sure, there was progress in some areas, but the fossil fuel industry continued to expand as the world got warmer. Here in Canada, after a decade of watching our political representatives backtrack on environmental and climate policies, Canadians elected a party that promised climate leadership. Despite many progressive and positive initiatives, our government is still encouraging, subsidizing and approving fossil fuel projects and infrastructure.
We can’t count on governments to make the changes we so desperately need. It’s up to us. We must be the change. We have our work cut out for us, but work we must. Perhaps this is even an opportunity, albeit one fraught with great challenges. The election exposed nasty currents in U.S. society but it also revealed a profound and rising dissatisfaction with the status quo. There’s good reason for that. The gap between rich and poor has grown, globalization and changing technologies have left many people behind in an outdated economic system, we witness racism daily on social media and television, education standards have declined, traditional media is breaking down, war and violence continue, and the effects of climate change worsen every day.
The answer isn’t to throw more gas on the fire. Many Americans just did that. Now, it’s up to those of us who believe in a brighter future to bring the fire under control without killing the flame. On the day after the election, the David Suzuki Foundation’s Alaya Boisvert posted, “Let the fire that ignites from this madness outshine the darkness that precipitated it.”
Despite Donald Trump’s promises to overturn what progress has been made on environmental and climate policies and initiatives, there’s no stopping the wave already underway. As Foundation Quebec and Atlantic Canada director Karel Mayrand wrote in a blog after election day, renewable energy investments have surpassed fossil fuel investments every year since 2010, and the gap continues to grow; American states and cities are putting a price on carbon, investing in renewable energy and in transit; electric vehicles will achieve price parity with gas vehicles by 2022; and the global movement against climate change is not going to stop.
We can’t be complacent. We can’t let fear and despair stop us from working to make the world a better place for everyone, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, physical appearance or limitations, country of origin, political leanings, education or social circumstance. And let’s face it, the planet isn’t in trouble, humanity is. Earth’s natural systems always find balance, but the corrections they make to overcome the damage we’ve caused — from putting too many emissions into the atmosphere to destroying habitat to make way for mining, industry and agriculture — don’t favour our species and the path we’re on.
We have so many possibilities and so much potential. We have knowledge and amazing technologies. We have ancient wisdom that teaches us how to be a part of this miraculous, complex, interconnected existence. Most of us want the same things: Health, happiness and connection with others.
We mustn’t let fear overcome us. It’s time to stand together to work for justice and human rights, for equity, for liberty, for a cleaner environment, for governments that serve the people rather than corporations — for the values the United States of America was supposedly founded on. We must listen to each other and promote dialogue rather than debate.
The U.S election has brought things to a head, and the boil is erupting. It’s more important now than ever before to come together to heal the wound.
David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.