After Trump signed an executive order reversing the Obama administration’s landmark Clean Power Plan, one rogue EPA employee switched the email announcement at the last minute, publicly flaunting the EPA’s internal opposition to what is arguably the least scientifically informed piece of science regulation, ever.
Environmentalists weren’t the only ones fuming over the Trump administration’s executive order. Articles about the EPA, its history, and the non-disputable facts of human-caused climate change sprouted all over social media.
Our beacons of hope have been the left-leaning democratic governors of California and New York who promise to keep up with the goals of the Clean Power Plan. Optimists cite that as welcome news, considering the two states house approximately 20% of the country. We exhale a sigh of relief upon hearing the Senate spending agreement will slice off only 1% of the EPA’s funding. This is good news–it absolutely is–it’s just not enough.
Sedated by these signs of hope, we turn to another political scandal among what seems like an unending parade of this-must-be-a-joke headlines. We can hardly keep our heads above water, let alone do anything about it. We send articles to our friends, post on social media, yell at the TV, and drink vodka (sometimes all at once). We march–an incredibly important form of collective political action–and we yell at the march, and we come home rejuvenated and ready for action. But what action do we take when we stand at such great odds, when all of the power is in two very tiny hands?
What do we do now?
The first step toward real change is abandoning complete faith in government. As a former intern at the EPA and a current graduate student planning on devoting her life to government and public service work, this was incredibly difficult.
For the past eight years I slept soundly, knowing the Obama administration was up late at night grappling with our biggest problems. I voted for a president that prioritized clean energy, but I wasn’t doing much to hold him or myself accountable. Even though the Clean Power Plan was a good start to combating climate change, that’s all it was—a start.
If you thought the EPA would save us from the dangers of that frightening concept called climate change, you were wrong. I don’t mean to paint too bleak a future, but if there’s one thing to take away from this nightmare that has lasted 100 days (it feels more like 100 years), it’s that the institutions can’t save us. The EPA will never have the authority it needs to combat climate change.
It didn’t have the authority last year, and it certainly doesn’t have the authority today. Without even sluggish government regulation, we’re left only with ourselves. Yes, the states are making some progress, and yes, action at the local-level is an incredibly effective means to make change within your community. There are some federal actions that can’t be undone and progress will continue with or without the current administration’s help. But mitigating climate change will require individual sacrifices on a global scale.
After marching, or watching CNN, take a moment and think – what action have you taken to reduce the footprint of yourself, your family and your friends?
Start stretching your green empathy muscle
By placing our bets on government institutions, we absolve ourselves of personal responsibility. Industrialized countries (and their citizens) need to slow down their growth and consumption, so that our children, our grandchildren and someone across the world right now can have a bit more.
Instead of griping about how devastating the Trump administration’s take on an issue is, act responsibly. Listen to Gandhi and be the change you want to see. Regulate yourself, your friends and your family, and maybe it will pass along. Adopt vegetarianism, even if only for one day (because if everyone in the US did that, it would save 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, the amount France produces in a day).
Right now, capitalism dominates, which makes environmental sacrifices hard to sell. Maybe the current administration’s fast-paced plummet of the American Empire won’t be such a bad thing, if a new social order could rise.
In the meantime, march, don’t drive and stay tuned for another post soon about actions you can take to make difference.