The news is infuriating and terrifying. The prospect of a second Trump Administration looms large, and not just for those in the United States. However, the media’s obsession with events that revolve around Trump—the impeachment, the election, and the State of the Union—obscures how people like the rest of us are making a difference every day. So, I’m breaking my long newsletter hiatus to highlight some other things going on in the world, just in case you need a little good news today.
First, I’m not discounting the power of the U.S. presidency. As one member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told me when I met him in India a few months ago, the Paris Climate Accord might not survive a second Trump term. Already the Trump Administration has rolled back decades of environmental protection, as well as progress on civil rights, health care, and many other life and death issues. Although kids in cages are no longer making headlines, this barbarity is still causing trauma and heartbreak. The 2020 election is really, really important, which is why I plan to knock on doors and make calls.
But that’s not all I’m going to do: 1) because I won’t put all my eggs in the DNC basket; 2) because elections are too easily bought; and 3) most importantly, voting is not the only way to make change. In fact, our national obsession with this election has overshadowed the other arenas where people are fighting and actually making progress:
- Going after fossil fuel financing is not a new strategy, but it’s one that is picking up steam in the climate movement. Over $12 trillion is being divested from fossil fuels because students, nuns, and other ordinary folks demanded that their institutions divest. (No, that’s not a typo. It’s trillion with a T.)
- Speaking of trillions, BlackRock, which manages $7 trillion in assets, made the dramatic announcement that it will put sustainability and climate change at the center of its investment approach, prompting Forbes to predict “a transformational shift within our global economy.” It’s not just that investors are reading the science; they are reading news of millions of people globally organizing to demand that fossil fuels be kept in the ground.
- There are also many local victories. A few weeks ago in Louisiana, a state where the petrochemical industry has dominated politics for a long, long time, a community rejected a new chemical plant because, as one councilman put it, “The main will of the people was they didn’t want another chemical plant.”
- In my hometown, Philadelphia, the persistent organizing of Philly Thrive is shaping public opinion as the future of the region’s largest oil refinery is being decided (photo above), and solar contractors are crediting Earth Quaker Action Team, the organization I work with, for pushing our local electric utility into making progress on solar, even if it is still far short of what is needed.
- People also continue to fight for criminal justice reform and more humane immigration policies. And best of all, people across organizations and movements are seeing how these issues are connected and that broader systemic change is needed.
My friend and mentor George Lakey recently wrote about his belief that we’re facing the biggest chance in his eighty-plus years to make breakthrough change: “The dynamics unleashed by climate change can promote unity in a larger, broader, and more visionary mass movement powerful enough to take on the 1 percent.”
It’s not a guarantee. It’s a chance. We’ll only grab this opportunity if we keep reminding ourselves and each other that what we do matters, even when it doesn’t make the evening news.
with love and encouragement,