Also, the U.S. elected a horrible president and now we’re all gonna die
Cover | by Paul Dechene, Paul Constant and Stephen Whitworth
It’s funny how much difference a couple of weeks can make. Case in point: 14 days ago, I was confident the United States would not lose its goddamned mind and elect Donald Trump as president. Also, Leonard Cohen was still alive.
Ha ha, joke’s on me. And you. Well, all of us.
By the time Tuesday, Nov. 8 rolled over into Wednesday, Nov. 9, me, a co-worker, at least one writer and some friends were at a pub, staring at the TV and wondering what the hell was going on. A few hours later, those of us who hadn’t staggered home were downing any alcohol we could get our hands on and trying not to talk about the disaster in progress.
At one point a friend, remembering my repeated insistence that there was zero chance in hell we’d ever have to say the words “President Trump”, looked at me and said, sadly, “you lied.”
Well no, I didn’t. But I was sure as hell wrong.
It’s been well-documented that Trump is a nightmare. Don’t believe me? Go look at the Internet (not the stupid parts). So the next four years are going to be a rough ride. I mean, two weeks into this mess and already there are literal neo-Nazis openly speculating on the humanity of Jewish people.
There are KKK marches in American cities. Indigenous protestors are being maimed by emboldened, militarized police at Standing Rock.
It’s a mess.
But assuming the soon-to-be Oompa-Loompa-In-Chief doesn’t start a nuclear war or order an invasion of Canada to get our resources and water, we’ll at least live to write about it.
Time to get started, I guess.
I understand if you need a break from this stuff, though. That’s why we gave you a dog. Look at it! So cute. /Stephen Whitworth
Turning Up The Heat
Trump, climate change denial and the possible end of the world | by Paul Dechene
Bad news: 2016 is on track to beat 2015 for hottest year on record. And right now, the north pole is a staggering 20 degrees warmer than normal. And yeah, blah blah blah, weather isn’t climate. But this isn’t some unseasonable winter rain shower or a snow day in May.
This is winter at the top of the world and the ice is melting.
The good news is, based on reports out of the COP22 climate change conference that just wrapped in Morocco, is sounds like all the major players in the Free World have gotten the message that human-caused climate change is real and that it’s an existential threat to our civilization.
All, that is, except one: America’s president-elect, Donald Trump. He’s on record claiming that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese to ruin the American economy.
Sure, Trump has since claimed his Chinese hoax tweet was “just a joke.” But if that’s the case, why is he appointing climate skeptic Myron Ebell to head the Environmental Protection Agency? Is this another joke? If so, it isn’t funny.
Thing is, if we hope to prevent runaway warming, we have to start mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions basically yesterday (last century would be better). And pulling that off will require the involvement of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter: The United States of America. But right at this critical moment, America has gifted us with Trump.
So is that it? Game over Planet Earth?
I asked climate scientist Michael Mann how dire the Trump election is. He says it all depends.
While Trump has raised many red flags, Mann says, “There are still some reasons to believe or at least hope that much of the campaign rhetoric was just that, and that he will govern in a more pragmatic and reasonable way, that he will listen to and be convinced by national security advisers and business experts who will stress the importance of taking the climate threat seriously and the importance of the U.S. not getting left behind in the great economic revolution of the century, clean energy.”
But, he concludes: “It would be misleading to not also acknowledge the legitimate concern, were Trump to make good on his campaign trail threats.”
Well, that was slightly more hopeful than I was expecting from the author of The Madhouse Effect and The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. And, another hopeful note, as this paper is going to press, Trump has told The New York Times that, “I think there is some connectivity between humans and climate change.”
Well, that’s a step away from calling it a hoax. Right?
Still, beyond his own national environmental agenda, Trump does pose a separate danger in that his example will embolden political actors who are working to thwart any progress on curbing our greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the worst offenders lives right here: oil-rootin’ and coal-tootin’ Premier Brad Wall.
And Trump’s election has already encouraged Wall to be more brazen in his defence of the fossil fuel economy, notes University of Regina professor and author of Fault Lines: Life and Landscape in Saskatchewan’s Oil Economy, Emily Eaton.
“Certainly, Wall came out immediately after the election saying this means Trudeau’s carbon pricing is a bad thing and we shouldn’t be involved,” says Eaton.
Also worrying is how Trump was able to profit politically from the conflict between rural and urban voters. That’s a divide that’s just as stark here in Saskatchewan. And letting that split fester will only empower the oil industry and fossil fuel-friendly governments.
“I think it is a danger because to a large extent the Left has more or less given up on rural areas instead of engaging them,” says Eaton. “We have to learn how to talk to those people instead of writing them off.”
But how do we engage rural communities who owe so much of their prosperity to the oil industry without compromising the ultimate goal of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels?
“The oil patch has localized impacts as well,” says Eaton. “So one of the things we need to do is, rather than writing people off because they’re anti-climate change, we have to talk to people and find out what their grievances are with oil. If we can start from a position of, ‘This is having this effect on your community and we hear your concerns and grievances, well, what are some ways forward from that?’ I think that’s a lot more effective.
“People want to be affirmed in terms of their own experiences. They don’t want to be written off as uneducated and backward.
“But that’s going to take serious organizing work: actually going out to rural communities and engaging with people. And I think in Saskatchewan, the NDP has pretty much given up on doing that. They also don’t have the institutional capacity any more, because they’ve been so beaten at the polls.”
In the end, though, Eaton does hold out hope that we can advance the climate agenda even with Trump in power and Wall emboldened here.
“It’s going to be up to people’s movements to push the climate agenda,” says Eaton. “Things are heating up with Standing Rock and other pipeline projects. And then there’s Trump’s promise to do everything he can to crack down on the protesters at Standing Rock and allow Keystone XL to go through. But this is really a moment where if people can get together in powerful cross-national ways, we could force the climate agenda and make it impossible for any administration to shift too radically.”
It’s an awful lot to ask of activists and environmentalists already worn down by decades of just trying to get climate change taken seriously on a global stage.
But hey, it’s just the fate of the world at stake. No pressure.
Talk To People
Liberal navel-gazing isn’t going to save America | by Paul Constant
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, it should be obvious to everyone that the Urban Archipelago concept promoted by thinkers like Richard Florida — the idea of cities as strongholds of liberal progress — was a dead end. As liberals spent 12 years building cities into citadels of progressivism and waiting for national demographics to shift our way, we allowed the Rust Belt to erode and we fostered an us-versus-them relationship with rural America. This is probably the greatest political miscalculation of our time. We learned that when we’re not trying to win over the whole country with our policies and our messages, we’re setting ourselves up for … well, the world outside our window.
This is not a call for weak-kneed centrism; quite the opposite. I’m saying that progressives need to stop facing inward. There is an eager audience for good progressive policy in every single state in this union. On the same night that Donald Trump won the election, four out of four statewide initiatives to raise the minimum wage passed by popular acclaim. Three out of four statewide initiatives favoring commonsense gun laws won.
The fact is that states which voted for Trump also voted for progressive ideas. People who twice voted for President Obama this year decided to vote for Donald Trump.
I’m not naively suggesting that Trump ran a campaign built solely on economic insecurity. His campaign was racist and sexist, deeply divisive and hateful, and it is incumbent on those of us with privilege to protect and amplify minorities in Trump’s new bullying America. But what he did was he correctly identified America’s economic insecurity, and then he falsely framed economic vitality as an either/or question: either we get rid of these brown people or everything is lost. Progressives failed to counter that proposition with a meaningful message of inclusiveness and prosperity. Yes, some portion of Trump voters supported him specifically because they hate people of color and women; we cannot and should not seek the support of bullies and bigots — we should continue to call them out and shame them and hold them accountable for their monstrous words. But we absolutely need a better answer for Americans who feel abandoned and scared and forgotten than just telling them to move away from their families and to a coastal city.
So what’s the answer? How do we move forward? Well, let’s look to one of the great political successes of our time: we learned with same-sex marriage that what wins elections and definitively defeats bigotry is when people share their stories. When people come out to their coworkers, it’s awfully hard for those coworkers to be against gay marriage. When you know people who are negatively impacted by draconian immigration laws, you’re more likely to be against those laws. We’ve had great successes with the minimum wage and secure scheduling where I live in Seattle, because low-wage workers shared their stories in a way that upper-class tech workers could understand.
Sharing our stories, and listening to the stories of others, is the best way to create meaningful change.
This is where you come in. If you’re looking for something to do to break this chain of fear and insularity, you can start by educating yourself. If you want to cultivate empathy and understanding in the world, you can share your knowledge and experiences, and listen to the knowledge and experiences of others
Things won’t improve if we revert to the impotent liberal outrage that followed the election of 2004. Relentless ridicule and scorn and smugness don’t work. Sharing righteous political memes on social media might drop a few milligrams of endorphins into your cerebral cortex, but it has absolutely no other effect on the world. What if, rather than confirming your beliefs on Facebook, you talk with your neighbors, admit what you don’t know, and listen to people who are different from yourself? That’s how things happen
You can’t shutter the doors and wait for things to change; you’ve got to open them wide and be ready to welcome people as they walk in.
Paul Constant was Prairie Dog’s Official American from 2012-2015. A longer version on this piece originally appeared in the Seattle Review Of Books.