It’s going to be a new era for the environment and environmental journalism.
Our nation is about to embark on a four year journey under the presidency of Donald Trump, a demagogue who successfully agitated a rash of scientific doubt throughout his campaign. A man who once called climate change a hoax created by the Chinese. A man who promised the working class that he'd revive a dying coal industry so vigorously, yet so impossibly, that it would increase GDP by $100 billion annually and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs for Americans.
While many aspects of his leadership are ambiguous for now—Trump skimped on policy details during the election—the impact of his appointments will likely resonate throughout the environment, climate, and energy industry. And for anyone still doubting the force of his impact, Trump has spoken in plain words about dismantling the framework that many believe would have reduced carbon emissions and weaned us off fossil fuel power.
During his speech today, President Obama said that in spite of the new course that's been charted for our nation, "we're all on the same team." For many citizens, this couldn't be farther from the truth, and that's why our environmental coverage must reflect the social disparity of issues pertaining to climate, energy, and science.
Now more than ever, topics that may have seemed esoteric or elitist to some must be explored in the interest of communities, families, and individuals everywhere. With a persuasive science-skeptic helming our country, we can't afford to increase the partisan divide any wider than it already is, especially when the threat of climate change is most certainly a global one.
So we'll be tracking the promises Trump made to energy industry workers on the campaign trail. We'll be filing FOIA requests to see how Trump and his administration attempt to exert their influence on other agencies. We'll be following the political funding of his closest allies. And most of all, we'll be showing how Trump's presidential decisions, with regard to the environment, will affect minorities, the disenfranchised, the working class, and anyone who feels they can't afford to think about climate change.
This sentiment was driven home by Andrew Revkin at the New York Times, who quoted a speech given by President Obama at a recent climate discussion:
"So if you're a working-class family, and dad has to drive 50 miles to get to his job, and he can't afford to buy a Tesla or a Prius, and the most important thing to him economically to make sure he can pay the bills at the end of the month is the price of gas, and when gas prices are low that means an extra 100 bucks in his pocket, or 200 bucks in his pocket, and that may make the difference about whether or not he can buy enough food for his kids—if you just start lecturing him about climate change and what's going to happen to the planet 50 years from now, it's just not going to register."
Some environmentalists, such as 350.org founder Bill McKibben, are understandably anticipating ghastly outcomes of a Trump presidency. Yet, others are more optimistic.
Meteorologist Eric Holthaus recently tweeted: "Every pipeline we block, every coal plant we shut down, every solar panel built is a net win… The environment movement doubles down under President Trump, ramps up protests, ramps up legal action, gets in the way… The momentum on climate is depressingly slow, but it's in the right direction. Trump is a big setback, but it's not game over."
As for now, we know that Trump has already begun to line his Cabinet and advisory committee with people who bolster his anti-science beliefs. A roster of potential picks for Secretary of the Interior, for example, includes Lucas Oil co-founder, Forrest Lucas, and Sarah Palin, whose political resume is decidedly anti-environment, as proven by her support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, opposition to Alaskan wildlife protections, and attacks on important natural resource regulations.
But if the last day has shown us anything, it's that many Americans still care deeply about the future of their neighbors, country, and planet. Over the next four years, the strength of our institutions, along with our resolve, will be tested to extreme lengths. President Trump may have shoved us in the wrong direction, but that doesn't mean we can't find our footing again.