Trump is the worst thing that could have happened to the planet. That’s all the more reason to fight on – and celebrate even the smallest successes
Friday 28 April 2017
There is no upside to the Trump presidency. To be in DC – I’ve come for Saturday’s giant climate march – is to be reminded up close what all Americans have known for months: we’ve put the country in the hands of a man completely unequal to the task. A man so cluelessly over his head that he keeps telling reporters he’s in over his head.
But if you want a few grayish linings to the dark-orange cloud, you can find them. In fact, the last few days have given those of us in the climate fight a few glimmers of light.
At midweek, and quite unexpectedly, the man who invests Harvard’s billions announced at a seminar that the world’s richest and most famous educational institution had more or less divested from fossil fuels. Of course he didn’t say that explicitly since it would require backtracking on the university’s strident declaration that it would never do such a thing. But close enough – Harvard had “paused” investing in fossil fuels, and was unlikely “ever” to resume.
Credit a remarkable campaign. Harvard students – like those at so many other places, including Penn and Cal where campaigners are currently sitting in –waged a relentless fight, even as officials told them no over and over again. Great credit is due them, and the alumni and faculty they enlisted. Leaders like Chloe Maxmin, who I met while she was still in high school, spent their entire college years on the fight, showing what persistence looks like.
But they were aided, I think, by Trump’s unlikely victory. In the past, plenty of players could look for someone else to pass the buck to: surely dealing with climate change was the government’s responsibility, not Harvard’s? That was always a moral lapse, but in the Trump era it’s completely absurd. We’re ruled by a man who thinks global warming is a hoax manufactured by the Chinese – clearly the rest of us are going to have to step up.
And that rest of us includes Democratic politicians, too many of whom have tried to straddle the climate issue in the past. Barack Obama, remember, spent his years in office championing an “all of the above” energy policy that saw America vault past Russia and Saudi Arabia as the biggest hydrocarbon producer on the planet. But Trump throws such temporizing into sharper relief.
That’s why Oregon senator Jeff Merkley and Bernie Sanders felt empowered Thursday to introduce legislation that, for the very first time, draws the line where it should be. Their bill demands that America move to 100% renewable energy. Not some solar panels but also some frack wells, not some windmills but also some new pipelines. 100%.