The Climate in Emergency

A weekly blog on science, news, and ideas related to climate change


Step by Step

So, a few people took a walk together on Saturday. Perhaps you were among them?

First, I’ve just got to say it, THAT WAS A VERY BIG DEMONSTRATION!!! Millions of people across the world stood up and shouted and waved signs for women’s rights and other, related issues. YAY!!!

And yet I’m not feeling optimistic right now.

Too many wrong and dangerous things are happening, and there’s not a whole lot we can do about it right now. We can jump up and down and wave signs, but the sad fact of the matter is that our elected officials have no reason whatever to believe that our enthusiasm is going to translate into political cover at the ballot box–because we just had an election, and right wing climate deniers swept both houses of Congress and the White House.

And to be clear, those electoral losses weren’t entirely our fault. While the many people who simply chose not to vote at all surely bear some responsibility for our current fix, there is also gerrymandering. There is voter suppression. There is the vast influx of money that has been busily building up and entrenching what became Donald Trump’s base for at least the past eight years. The opposition is currently larger than the recent election results imply. But if the system is indeed rigged now, it will not likely be less so by the time the next election comes around. Even if our leaders believe we want to have their backs, why should they believe we can deliver?

I don’t want to vent too much of my personal negativity–I don’t want my bad mood to become contagious. Our focus must be on solving the problems we have, not bemoaning them. But at the same time, I am feeling so personally overwhelmed that there isn’t very much I can do. Honestly, I spent most of yesterday in the grip of an utterly debilitating anxiety attack.

It would be nice if there were simply a to-do list to check off. That way, we could take this whole process step by step, without confusion, digression, or overload. I wrote one up shortly after the election, posted it, and did some of the things on it, but that was a one-off. I need a regularly updated list. I also need that is, within its parameters, reasonably close to exhaustive. A random smattering of things to call my senators about, for example, isn’t good enough–because even if I signed every suggested petition and made every suggested call, there would still be that one bill or that one political appointment that passed, like a thief in the night, utterly without my knowledge until after the fact. And I don’t know about you, but that sort of thing makes me want to weep and rend my garments and star blankly off into space when I should in fact be doing something useful.

I have been unable to find such a list, so far. I am thinking of making one.

Several guiding principles are apparent, right now:

  • The political resistance needs an environmental focus. As I have written before, the central objective of the Trump Administration appears to be the undermining of climate action. While many other aspects of Donald Trump’s plans seem very troubling, as far as I can tell, he and his major investors have little to nothing to gain from either misogyny or racism directly. They stand to gain enormously by forestalling climate action, however. Dog-whistling up deplorables is almost certainly a means to an end for them, therefor, and it is at that end–at the head of the beast–where the battle must be joined.
  • The political resistance must be intersectional, inclusive, and reciprocal. There is a meme going around Facebook right now in which a brown-skinned hand holds a sign, reading “So, all of you nice white ladies are going to show up at the next Black Lives Matter rally, right?” That meme has a point, and it is a point that could be launched at environmentalists just as easily as towards white feminists. There are those among us who are fighting for their survival–the anti-pipeline fights by Native American nations, various economic and political refugees, and trans and gender-nonconforming folk all spring to mind as other examples. For those of us not at immediate risk, supporting those fights is not only the right thing to do, it is also the only way we can, in good conscience, ask the others to sign on board with environmentalist fights. Climate action is part of justice, and we all need it, but we can’t reasonably expect anyone to fight for future generations if they’re busy fighting just to live to see tomorrow.
  • This blog can address a broad spectrum of political issues and yet remain strictly non-partizan. This blog is not Democrat. It is not Republican. It is not Green Party. It is not Libertarian. It is not Democratic-Socialist. I draw a strict distinction between taking a politically controversial position (e.g., transwomen ought to be able to use the same toilets that ciswomen do) and identifying with a specific political party. In general, the focus will remain on climate change, even though I may provide information on engaging with other issues (such as the time and location of the next Back Lives Matter rally, if I can find that information).

What I want to do is to create a couple of pages associated with this site that will list, in a comprehensive way, various actions that readers might want to take. And I’ll update those lists regularly. Perhaps one page for things to write or call elected officials about, one for links to petitions, and one for upcoming marches, direct actions, and related events. I’ve long wanted a page for links to scientific resources and one for other blogs as well, so I’ll do those, too.

And then I can get back to using the blog itself largely to talk about science and current events.

But I can’t do any of this alone. It’s just too much work to do on the limited number of hours per week I can spare for paid work.

I need donations. I need sponsorship. $50-$100 per week would take care of it. Split several different ways, it’s not all that much. Please.





Sleepless in DC: Lobbying Against Oil and Gas Exploration in the Atlantic

On Wednesday, I went with a group of others to Washington DC to lobby against oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic. I will write more next week about the history of the issue and the specific political processes involved, but today I want to write about the experience of lobbying–something I’d never done before and had frankly not expected to ever do.

I also need to apologize for not posting on Tuesday–I was busy getting ready to going to DC.

I ended up on the expedition more or less by accident. My husband signed us up to go but then had to back out due to commitments elsewhere, leaving me to carry the family standard, as it were, to Washington, even though I had only the haziest idea of what “lobbying on Capitol Hill” actually meant. I figured I’d go and make the crowd at least look bigger and leave the talking to others.

But while I was fuzzy on lobbying, I was familiar with our cause–keeping oil and gas exploration out of the Atlantic. Wednesday’s events were a follow-up to the BOEM scoping meeting I wrote two posts about last year.

Wednesday began early for me.

I knew I had to get up at 3:45 at the very latest in order to meet the man I was giving a ride to and get both of us to DC in time for check-in and orientation at 7:30. I tend to need more sleep than average and while I got to bed earlier than usual, I knew it wasn’t early enough–I rarely have trouble sleeping, but getting myself to bed at a reasonable hour is a persistent struggle. So I was worrying about my impending sleep deprivation when I discovered my cell phone’s battery was down. I couldn’t remember whether its alarm function would work while it was charging. I went to bed with much trepidation.

And I lay in the dark, not sleeping, worrying about my alarm clock.

I think I slept an hour or two and not all of those minutes were in a row. I asked my passenger to be my driver instead, but I could not even sleep in the car. At one point I dissolved in helpless giggles, I forget why, my wonky, sleep-deprived brain behaving very much as though I’d been drinking. Eventually I got it together, but I had some concern about my performance for the day.

Actually, I did fine. My ignorance about lobbying turned out to be unfounded anyway, because my role was specifically to be an “ordinary person.” We went around in groups to the offices of various Congresspeople and the leader of each group would present our argument and then introduce us, the little people. We’d speak briefly and movingly about the threat from fossil fuel to our homes and livelihoods. Once or twice I lost my train of thought and had to apologize, explaining that I had not slept. The staffers were very understanding.

The staffers generally were very helpful and friendly. Several even made suggestions for how we could plead our case better. What surprised me was how much the Congressmembers who already agreed with us welcomed our visits. I had thought that once someone was on our side further contact would be seen as redundant. Certainly that is how it works in ordinary discourse; if you came to me and said “oil and gas exploration are bad” and I said “yes, I know, I agree,” I wouldn’t want you to keep reiterating your point. I’d say “didn’t you hear me? I said yes!” In politics, evidently, it’s different.

The issue is that the members who already object to oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic are under constant pressure from other lobbyists to change their minds. Since being in Congress means doing what your constituents want, members are eager to hear from constituents whose views they share.

The experience of lobbying taught me many things–most of which I’ll get into in next week’s post. Basically I got a window into how politics in Washington actually work. It’s not the passionate and impersonal generalities we often see from the outside, where you’re either for climate sanity or against it and in the pocket of the Koch brothers. Instead, it is specific decisions made by specific people based on a suite of considerations. If you’re friendly and polite and you speak to a Congressmember’s own interest and priorities, he or she might just say yes.