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Cleaning Up the Morning After a Tea Party, Part II: What is to Be Done

11/17/2010

-by Derek Gideon

“We left—onto the freeway shoulders—

under the tough old stars—
In the shadow of bluffs
I came back to myself,
To the real work, to
“What is to be done.”
-Gary Snyder, “I Went into the Maverick Bar”

Get used to me posting poetry on this blog. Because those of us who care about national climate change policy going to need it to keep us going. As I blogged in Part I, the day after the election, things are not looking good for a national climate policy in the US. But that doesn’t mean the climate movement has to lose hope. In this post I’ll give my take on where we should go from here.

Short-Term

In a lecture at Princeton this past September, Van Jones noted that if Congress will not take action on climate change, the Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA has the authority to do so. I am quite aware that, taking a conciliatory tone with the new Republican House, the Obama Administration might be reluctant to have the EPA begin regulating carbon. But if we want to start tackling the pressing issue of climate change, something’s going to have to happen. If it comes to a fight between the president and congress over the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon, the climate movement needs to be ready to vocally support the EPA, and prepared to drown out the tea party din.

There are also a number of state and regional initiatives we should continue to support, including the Western Climate Initiative, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

Long Term

If we want to stop changing the climate, we need to change the political climate. Why did Joe Manchin see it as politically expedient to appear in an ad shooting the cap-and-trade bill? Why were climate-friendly politicians and initiatives triumphant in California but not in West Virginia?

This article at Worldchanging provides many  useful links on the boom of green jobs in California, even back in 2006. Meanwhile, West Virginia is the second largest producer of coal in the nation, and produces nearly all of its own power with coal-fired plants. And people tend to vote along their percieved self-interest.

In those parts of the country that have not yet seen the emerging green economy, we need to work on it from the ground up. Everyone can work on this in some way at the community level. Those of us with a mind for entrepreneurship can work on starting green businesses, from wind power installation to sustainable food. Those of us who are good at politics and policy can run for office starting at the local level, as was suggested in a recent series of posts on It’s Getting Hot in Here. Those of us who are good at environmental education should do environmental education. We need 350.org‘s successful “Get to Work Day” to become a sustained effort to build a sustainable future for our communities.

That also includes continued organizing and action. I highly recommend this “Open Letter to 1Sky from the Grassroots” in response to 1Sky’s initial open letter to all groups fighting climate change (also highly recommended). The letter from the grassroots highlights how many of the most successful  campaigns against coal plants and other dirty fuel sources have been led by grassroots coalitions centered around environmental justice.

In short, when the political climate doesn’t favor the best policies, we need to change it. Because I for one much rather change the political climate than the actual one.

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