From Richard Heinberg
Post Carbon Institute
America has plunged into the unknown. Why? Robert Parry has nailed it about as well as anyone. I leave it to him, and a thousand other pundits, to perform the post-mortem on yesterday’s surprising election results. What’s important now is to size up the situation and decide how to move on.
On the good side: Under a Trump presidency, there is likely to be no war with Russia, as might well have occurred if Clinton had prevailed. The TPP is hopefully dead, and the U.S. can be expected to move toward at least some post-globalization trade policies. The neoliberals’ dominance of the Democratic Party suffered a grievous and perhaps fatal blow. Millions of Americans who have felt ignored by the Washington and Wall Street elites now feel they have a voice. Even though foreign relations and trade policy will likely be in the hands of business-friendly Republican apparatchiks who will ultimately throw working people overboard with giddy glee, regular middle-Americans will be able to reassure themselves that at least “their guy” is in charge. Maybe things could be worse; after all, as my friend Ugo Bardi has pointed out, Italy survived 20 years of Berlusconi.
On the bad side: There will be no more federal support for climate action or research, for environmental protection (the EPA will be gutted), or for alternative energy. All federal lands will be opened up for oil, gas, and coal exploration. Most of Yellowstone will be paved over as a parking lot for a new Trump resort (okay, I’m kidding—a little). With the Executive Branch, Congress, and Supreme Court all dominated by the same party, there will be no brakes on efforts to defund government agencies, or overturn regulations of all kinds (on guns, banks, workplace safety, you name it). Having witnessed Trumpism’s success, a new generation of politicians will adopt the tactics of utterly demonizing their opponents. It’s hard to see how civility can return anytime soon. These will be dire times for women and minorities.
The pundits rightly see the election as a repudiation of the establishment. But who will actually be running things in the months ahead? Mostly, the same old revolving-door lobbyist-officials. When the next economic crisis hits, the entire country will face a rude awakening, and mere tough talk won’t do much to actually keep food on the tables of anxious Iowans or Missourians. Rather than admit that he can’t actually make America great again, expect Trump to line up the scapegoats. And rather than admit that “their guy” is incompetent or wrong, expect many Trump supporters to hoist the modern equivalent of pitchforks (for which background checks will no longer be required).
Crises won’t go away because government refuses to acknowledge or address them. Climate change, resource depletion, and over-reliance on debt are wolves at the door. In light of all this, Post Carbon Institute’s organizational strategy continues to make sense: Build resilience at the community level.
For the time being, national policy-based action on climate and other environmental issues is a closed door. But the most promising responses to our twenty-first century crises are showing up at the community level anyway. It’s in towns and cities across the nation, and across the world, where practical people are being forced to grapple with weird weather, rising seas, an unstable economy, and a fraying national political fabric. Whatever workable strategies are likely to be found will arise there. We see our job as helping that adaptive process however we can. This is not about winning; there is no finish line, no election day. Just a new opportunity each morning to encourage, educate, and build.