Activism activists

Published on November 29th, 2016 | by Carolyn Fortuna

Climate Activists Persevere as Trump Administration Looms Darkly

Climate activists around the world are deepening their resolve and accelerating actions to counteract the regressive policies of the upcoming Trump Administration. Activists are gathering strength and solidifying their positions through determination, resilience, and some self-admitted anger. The grassroots climate action, which seeks to improve the lives of all the earth’s citizens, may be like nothing the planet has ever seen before.


Here are just a few of the activist-initiated events and policies underway to continue progress toward reducing our carbon footprints.

Clean Power Plan: Under the Obama Administration, the United States was on track to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants as part of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Still in the courts, the CPP goal is to cut carbon pollution by about one-third by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. States and utility companies could meet that goal by expanding investment in solar and wind power or nuclear energy, among other actions. Expect huge protests from activists as the Trump Administration seeks to weaken the CPP through its “bullshit hoax” perspective about global warming.

Collaborative Consumption: Individuals are endorsing a sharing economy more than ever with the growing popularity of Uber, Airbnb, Home Exchange, and Spinlister and other sharing services. Rather than buying individually and consuming more natural resources, sharing limits our carbon footprints. Activists on small scales will be helping others to learn how sharing benefits the individual and the planet.

Converting oilfields: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved legislation in November prohibiting new fossil fuel leases on city-owned property in an effort to combat climate change. The legislation by Supervisor John Avalos originated with activist Jed Holtzman, who discovered the city was leasing to Chevron an 800-acre property that it inherited in Kern County. City finance officials say converting the property to a solar array could generate more revenue than current oil operations, which net the city about $320,000 annually.  “We’re headed for catastrophic changes to our climate if we don’t reduce our use of fossil fuels now. With the pending Trump presidency, local leadership on climate change is more urgent and important than ever. San Francisco and other cities can help lead this country into the clean energy future we need and resist the catastrophic policies our president-elect has proposed,” Avalos said. “The fact that we can make as much revenue from solar as we do from oil just reinforces that it’s time to keep dirty fossil fuels in ground and transition to a renewable-powered economy.”

Dakota Access Pipeline: From Los Angeles to Berlin and in hundreds of other cities across America and around the world, activists stood together in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their battle against a $3.7 billion conduit for fracked crude oil. The pipeline will threaten both the Sioux’s water supply and our planet’s climate and disrespect sacred burial grounds. Trump’s financial ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline and his campaign claims about climate change hoaxes demonstrate how much of a threat his Administration can be. The Obama administration said this month it wants more study and tribal input before deciding whether to allow the partially built pipeline to cross under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota. In the meantime, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced it will remove one protesters’ camp by December 5.

Data clarity:  A movement towards making data more available and useful, with specific requirements from some funders, publishers, and institutions, is now underway from journals like Nature Climate Change. This transparency will be important moving forward with a Trump presidency, as he was cited by PolitFact during his campaign of providing 78% inaccurate statements. Indeed, conservative think tanks are now working to spread fake news about alternative energy innovators like Elon Musk. Data clarity will help activists to counter these forces which seek to undermine the need for carbon action and social justice for all.

Fracking bans inspired by local citizen climate activists: Community activists have won fracking bans, which are listed on Food & Water Watch. Five counties in California alone have now banned fracking. Expect other activists to push heavily for fracking bans in 2017.

Friends of the Columbia Gorge: After three years of advocacy and litigation, in 2016, Friends of the Columbia Gorge and their allies succeed in stopping the Troutdale Energy Center, a controversial 701-megawatt power plant proposed along the mouth of the Sandy River. Citing treaty rights of the Lummi Nation whose ancestral fishing waters were threatened, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a needed permit for SSA Marine and Peabody Energy’s proposed Gateway Pacific coal terminal sited at Cherry Point, WA, which would have sent 48 million tons of coal by rail through the Columbia River Gorge each year. The advocacy of Friends and allies, including the Lummi, turned public opinion in Washington state against the project.

Higher education institutions divest from fossil fuels: Due to the direct influence of climate activists, 100 universities worldwide – including 35 in the U.S. – have decided to cut their ties with fossil fuel companies. Over a quarter of U.K. universities have divested from fossil fuels, with sixteen more announcing recently.

Language that moves away from euphemisms:  The Associated Press has announced a new rule in its widely used “stylebook:” reporters should not use the term “Alt-right” when describing the collection of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and white nationalists who will likely become part of a new Trump Administration.  The AP Stylebook correctly points out that the term “Alt-right” was used by people with racist and xenophobic ideologies to soften their image and hide their reprehensible ideas behind a clean name.

“Alt-right” (quotation marks, hyphen and lower case) may be used in quotes or modified as in the “self-described” or “so-called alt-right” in stories discussing what the movement says about itself. Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the past, we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi, or white supremist.

Activists should be aware of this AP style change and use appropriate language to describe pervasive belief systems.

Letter from businesses to Mr. Trump: 365 leaders of corporations sent President-elect Trump a letter explaining how addressing climate change is essential to our global economy. “Failure to build a low ­carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk,” the companies said. Activists will be pushing for comparable written documentation of public interest in climate change action, using this pragmatic model to guide their own letter-writing campaigns.

The “Secret” Pantsuit Nation: Libby Chamberlain created Pantsuit Nation to support Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee. After Clinton’s shocking loss to Donald Trump, the group, which numbers over 2.5 million people and is invitation only, looked to its founder for direction. Chamberlain said the group will be a safe space to share stories, and that storytelling “can be just as powerful in making a difference in the trajectory of our country” as more “visible or traditional” forms of activism like protesting and grassroots organizing.

The path toward implementing the Paris climate agreement continues: The Marrakech Climate Change Conference in November successfully demonstrated to the world that the implementation of the Paris Agreement is underway and the constructive spirit of multilateral cooperation on climate change continues. The Paris climate agreement, the most comprehensive international plan to combat the worst effects of rising temperatures, went into effect on Nov. 4. The Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action hopes to be an inspiration “to all of those across the globe who are passionately engaged in efforts to fight climate change and ensure a better, more resilient and more equitable lifestyle for our fellow citizens of the world.”

The Recovery Act: Three decades ago, the U.S. led the world in the development of renewable energy, such as wind, solar, and geothermal power. Since then, markets for renewable energy have grown predominantly overseas due to strong, consistent foreign government incentives and policies. As a result, manufacturing of renewable energy equipment has grown largely overseas as well. Recovery Act investments are helping the U.S. re-establish leadership in innovation, manufacturing, and deployment in these fast-growing industries, which will create new jobs, increase access to clean energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Research projects that resulted from this Act have the potential reduce the cost even further, to the point that electricity from renewable energy technologies could become cost competitive with electricity from coal or natural gas power plants. Activism during the Trump Administration is certain to push for continuation of the Recovery Act starting points.

State government efforts to encourage renewable energy: Funding to build and expand large solar, wind, hydro, and other renewable energy projects to meet state goals have risen during 2016. For example, New York state announced $150 million in funding to support large-scale renewable energy projects. This funding facilitates public-private partnerships to advance the Governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision strategy and ensure the state meets its goal of generating 50 percent of its electricity from carbon-free renewable energy projects by 2030. “This state is a national leader in combating climate change and with this investment, we are taking our unprecedented efforts one more step toward a cleaner and greener New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “This funding will advance large-scale energy projects, continue build a clean energy economy, and generate opportunity for New Yorkers for generations to come.”


Getting climate change deniers to understand the effect of carbon emissions on the environment is tough work, especially when ultra conservative forces are entering the U.S. executive office. Yet, when vocal activists rise up and work together to transform regressive U.S. federal policies, we continue to move forward to safeguard our planet’s health.

If you know of activists or activism taking place out there, contact me at the sites listed below. We’ll keep chronicling the activism that is taking place and making visible the small acts of courage and resistance that are taking place all over the U.S. and the world. We will stand up to self-serving interests of the fossil fuel industry and to oppression in all guises.

Photo Credit: Pantsuit Nation/ Facebook


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About the Author

Carolyn writes from her home in Chepachet, RI, where she advocates with her lake association for chemical-free solutions to eradicate invasive species. She’s an organic gardener, nature lover, and vegetarian (no red meat since 1980) who draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+

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