The most telling item in Donald Trump's State of the Union address may have been what wasn't there: any mention of climate change, the greatest problem the world faces. And just as telling was the fact that official Washington seemed barely to notice.
Understandably preoccupied with his vile attacks on immigrants (or cheering his ability to actually stay with one task for one hour), press, pundits, and other politicians treated the omission as not even worthy of note. The Democratic response from Representative Joe Kennedy didn't touch on global warming, either, though it did avoid Trump's oddly intimate ode to "beautiful clean coal."
This means many things, but for climate campaigners one of them should be patently clear: if we're going to make progress on climate change it's not going to come through Washington DC -- not any time soon. Even if Democrats manage to take back the House and Senate in the midterm elections, they wouldn't be able to get meaningful legislation past Trump -- and there's nothing much to suggest they'd try very hard.
New York City is not as big as the federal government, but it's big enough: it's got lawyers aplenty, and the resources to do real damage. And it won't be alone. We've just launched a huge Fossil Free US campaign, designed to make sure there are a thousand New Yorks working on a thousand fronts.
It has three main components...
The first -- joining in work pioneered by groups like the Sierra Club -- is to persuade towns, cities, counties, and states to pledge to make the transition to 100% renewable energy. This is now easy and affordable enough that it doesn't scare politicians -- cities from San Diego to Atlanta have joined in, and they will help maintain the momentum towards clean energy that the Trump administration is trying so hard to blunt.
Job two is to block new fossil fuel infrastructure. In some places, that will be by law: Portland, Oregon, recently passed a bill banning new pipes and such, over the strenuous objections of the industry. In other places it will take bodies -- tens of thousands have already pledged to journey to the upper midwest if and when TransCanada decides to build out the Keystone XL pipeline that Trump has permitted.
Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books, including The End of Nature and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. A former staff writer for The New Yorker, he writes regularly for Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, and The (more...)