Tuesday's election was frightening in many respects. But from an ecological perspective, it is an unimaginable disaster. The United States had recently committed to the Paris agreement to begin addressing climate change, and President Obama recently signed the important agreement on the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) with President Xi of China. But if the incoming president of the U.S. keeps his promises, he will reverse these agreements, deepen our dependence on coal mining, increase oil drilling in the Arctic, and open the way for environmentally destructive methods such as fracking.
One of the world's most effective environmental organizations, 350.org, is normally neutral on political candidates. However, the environmental devastation that would follow from a Trump presidency is so great that even 350.org joined the battle to defeat the Trump campaign.
For people who care about the future of the planet and who pay even passing attention to science, the new presidency represents a devastating defeat. Decades from today, people may look back on this election as the moment when the global community lost its (already slim) chance to prevent run-away global warming.
That said, we need to take a deep breath. Now, more than ever, we have to roll up our sleeves and get going. There are at least three crucial things those of us who care about the future of our planet need to do, and we have only four years to get them done:
- We must redouble our efforts to communicate the planet's actual situation to voters in the United States. Climate change is a bigger threat to jobs, prosperity, and a secure future than any other threat humanity faces.
As a scholar of religion and science, I know that it's not enough just to list the facts and figures. We must also be committed to investing our souls, spirits, and resources to assist in the transition to an ecological civilization. Please fight discouragement and despair, the desire to give up now. The work on behalf of our planet has only become more important. It calls for a greater investment of time and money than ever before.
So let's now join our efforts together with renewed energy in the fight for the planet. We may or may not be able to avoid an environmental catastrophe, along with the collapse of economies and social structures that it would bring. Yet in the fight for a deep transformation of society, we can help humanity prepare for the collapse, teaching people (and ourselves!) how to find ecological ways to live on this earth over the long term. In these actions we will find renewed hope.
And if we are successful, perhaps we will avoid the collapse after all.
― Philip Clayton