News from the front desk: Issue No 317 – On Trump and why fightback begins now
10 November 2016
This will be hard. Very hard. After the dreadful horror of the Abbott years in Australia, after the excruciatingly hard won Paris agreement reached last year, and after it’s become clear that global warming is accelerating faster than we thought, the biggest and still most powerful nation on the planet has elected a climate denier as president and a man who promises to restore the fossil fuel industry in the US to full capacity.
Not only that, he has promised to tear down the powers of the US Environmental Protection Agency and pull out of the Paris agreement.
Whether Trump can deliver on all his promises or even intends to remains to be seen.
On his posturing on immigrants, foreign policy and trade, the ray of hope is Trump didn’t mean what he said; that it was part of the sales pitch to clinch the deal. What’s in the fine print of the contract will be exactly what suits him, and he can brush it away with the excuse of “what’s good for business”.
Besides, the elite that he campaigned against have not gone away.
The paradox is that Trump won the presidency by campaigning against the establishment, which makes up much of the ruling class in the Republican Party (but is not confined to it).
They will sort out Trump on business issues. The hope is the CIA will sort him out on foreign policy, with the fear that his blatherings on pulling out of alliances will unleash nuclear build up in our region and possibly elsewhere.
The Republican establishment may “stoop to kiss the ring” of the man who “turned America red” and delivered them supreme rule in the House, the Senate and the courts, but they will exercise influence the way they always have.
But while this elite may pull in the reins on trade and any meaningful redistribution of America’s social divide, they are the force behind the oil, coal and gas industries, and on this they may well pull out all stops to reverse recent gains for climate mitigation.
Trumps’ 100 day action plan outlines a mean agenda:
We’re going to rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions including the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.
We’re going to save the coal industry and other industries threatened by Hillary Clinton’s extremist agenda.
I’m going to ask Trans Canada to renew its permit application for the Keystone Pipeline.
We’re going to lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas.
We’re going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies. These technologies create millions of jobs with a smaller footprint than ever before.
We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs.
Any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers, or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped. We will also eliminate duplication, provide regulatory certainty, and trust local officials and local residents.
Any future regulation will go through a simple test: is this regulation good for the American worker? If it doesn’t pass this test, the rule will not be approved.
A slim ray of hope was the sense in his victory speech that Trump was surprised.
While the winning first family smiled appropriately, they did not seem overly delighted. Trump didn’t seem pleased at all. Missing was a sense of fire and passion – the jubilation of the ideologue finally attaining his dream. He’s no ideologue.
You get the sense that Trump will be quickly bored. That he thought it would be fun to run, maybe win a fair slice of support and use it to open a new media channel and grow his business, which has undergone many losses and survived as much by smoke and mirrors as help from clever advisers. Imagine the money to be made from running the best reality show of them all, the “anyone can be president of the United States of America; and here’s what it feels like” show.
But to actually sit in the “drafty old Whitehouse” instead of his comfy “Trump Towers”, and do real work probably doesn’t seem all that appealing.
On climate and energy the outlook is far more bleak.
While Trump might lose interest or just fade away, the real power in the Republicans will ensure the elite gets its way and its way is planted in fossil fuels.
If the markets were to rule the fossil fuel industry would continue on its death spiral, but the danger is the US government will now prop it up with untold support, possibly the one promised agenda Trump can politically deliver.
The states are strong
Against his agenda is the strong federated nature of the country. The founding fathers might have had a frontier wild man like Trump in mind when they made the states so powerful. California is unlikely to let the Feds bring their fossil fuels into their town. And other states that were prevaricating on climate will hopefully be stimulated to strengthen their resolve.
Global call to double down
The call now from around climate and sustainability advocates around the world is to double down.
The Climate Council in Australia said, “the only option is to strengthen our resolve and to keep on fighting for what’s right.
“The stakes are too high and there is too much to lose.
“If the US pulls back climate action for four years, it will make Australian action even more important.”
We know how to do it in Australia
In Australia we already know how to survive a tyrannical anti-planet destroyer. We use anger and then action to fight even harder and get more engaged with those who are not.
We prevail upon the sympathisers embedded in the centres of power in almost every place we look. They are there, waiting for the prod to action. Let’s bring them awake, these climate sleepers.
Let’s use the shock and shame of the Australian politicians watching their iPhones in horror, on both sides of the fence, and use that energy to turn to positive action.
Let’s unite as a nation and with the rest of the non Trump world because if the US Administration isn’t going to help then we are on our own.
And we know what that means: give up or give all.
And giving up is not an option. But let’s also remember that more than half the American people are with us and there is already outpouring of anti-Trump protests.
From folk in Morocco
The official statement from COP22’s President Salaheddine Mezouar focused on the need for all countries and non-state actors to continue with their shared responsibility and continue the great progress achieved to date.
“The climate change question concerns the preservation of our livelihood, dignity and the only planet on which we all live. We are convinced that all Parties will respect their commitments and stay the course in this collective effort.”
Another statement on Thursday called on the media to step up and draw attention to the need to protect the environment and fight climate change.
Media needed to “instil a real sense of awareness about the impact it has on their everyday lives, as well as nature and the planet in general.
“We need to change the paradigm and our daily habits as citizens, states, institutions, journalists, organisations, individuals and groups in relation to nature.” Media needed to “clarify and simplify this new logic to citizens and to relay experiences and successful initiatives in the fight against climate change.”
Clever media messaging worked for Trump. We can do the same. Besides more than half the American people are on our side (net of gerrymanders) and together in the world we can be more than even mighty America.
We can do this.
The warnings from Trump
The lesson for Australia and the rest of world on the election of Donald Trump is that it will be a big mistake to continue business as usual.
We need to examine the source of anger that delivered him the presidency and encouraged people to ignore what he said during the campaign.
Principles need not apply but that’s not the point
The sense is Trump won’t be standing on principle too much, if at all, but nor do his supporters expect him to.
“He gets things wrong, he contradicts himself; but he’ll learn on the job, and he’s better than the rest,” one farmer told a reporter in the US. In other words, he’s not a professional politician that mouths platitudes and delivers little; he’s authentic.
The American elite and elites everywhere should pay attention to this and examine the deep divisions and underclasses that gave Trump victory, as a signal that the system is not working. It’s the same in Europe in the Brexit vote and in the rise of Pauline Hanson in Australia, again.
The traditional and historic inequities of the class system resurfaced strongly after the GFC when the financial establishment was bailed out and propped up for another running of the bulls (against the unprotected populace, just like in Barcelona). It’s delivered inequality and dreadful working conditions for unskilled people, no jobs for many. Many with jobs are increasingly stressed with mortgages and too many hours sacrificed for work in lieu of family and social life.
A few do well, but their numbers are shrinking.
Location and housing are critical in this mix
Let’s not be smug about any of this. Australia has its own underclass and growing inequality: you can see it as soon as you go beyond the privileged and cocooned inner city life. It’s why it’s so important to think of equity when we reshape our urban plans. So much inequality is locational. It’s confined to areas that we don’t see, don’t hear.
An understanding of that underpins the salt and pepper ethos of new thinking in public housing. We are social animals and if we commune with fellow humans across the great divides we influence each other, with any luck, positively.
We need to absolutely keep focused on well-designed rapid public transport connections that can bring business and social activity to more regional and urban centres, which at the same time can deliver cheaper housing for the displaced urban elite who can no longer afford to live in the areas they want to work and socialise in.
And let’s not be fooled by the racism angle in the anger. In depth focus groups reveal that underlying the racist card is the fear of missing out – crowds, overfull trains and buses, no jobs and so on.
Human nature will always look for something to blame and if we don’t defuse the very real causes of discontent we don’t know where the next Trump (or Hitler for that matter) will emerge, to whisper sweet nothings into the ears of the desperate, when no one else will give them the time of day.
Time to act. Every way we can. In urban planning. In our personal connections with people outside our social sphere wherever they may be. To show kindness, help with opportunities, to support progressive social and economic policies.
Or bear the consequences of anger. Why wait until it’s too late?
On climate we need to fight, hard and fast
On climate, there is actually no choice but to win. We need to treat Trump as a short-term inconvenience. And the same with his party. Extremes are always short lived. They can be damaging but they are short lived.
There is always a positive to each negative. We just need to speed up our reaction to this momentous transformation of our landscape and take a lesson from Trump: take control wherever we can, fast.