To believe, or not to believe? That is the question of many on the far left and the fringes of the environmental movement. We cannot simply hope that Obama follows through with his promises, we must act to guarantee that he does.
Nothing represents this dichotomy more than the mixed feelings I have about the election of Barack Obama.[social_buttons]
I walk a fine line between radical and liberal—between wanting to smash a failed system and fix a broken one. I consider myself an anarchist, yet I proudly voted. And I voted for Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, yet I fought back tears of joy as I witnessed Obama give his acceptance speech in person in Grant Park.
Obama has great potential to be the most liberal, open-minded president of the last century. Dare I say, he could be a catalyst for change.
What does this mean for those of us who view species extinction and global climate catastrophe as more than just back-burner issues? This represents an opportunity that the environmental movement has never seen, and we would be foolish to pass it up. So here are four steps to help ensure that Obama keeps his many bold promises to us.
Attend his inauguration. Whether you want to take part in a bold demonstration or offer a polite reminder about issues that matter, his inauguration is the perfect setting to tell Obama what is important to you. Over a million people are potentially attending, and if the past is an indicator, most of these folks will of course be there to cheer him on 100%. A huge impact could be made, however, if even 10% of the people who turn up, whether they voted for Obama or not, are there to remind him of his obligations to the people.
Write to him on his new website. The President Elect website, which encourages everyone to tell Obama what issues matter to them, gives credibility to his claim that he intends to hear us all. Do not let party-line supporters be the only ones to take advantage of this. There are issues that matter to us that are not addressed in Obama’s platform. If you want to see a president include the Earth and animals in his agenda, here is your chance.
Take direct and indirect action, all year round. The biggest fear that radicals should have right now is that everyone who was politicized in the last year will think that their work is done. The time right after an election is one of the best times to take the streets. Your style might be to chain yourself to a tree, or it might be holding a sign outside of a polluter’s headquarters. A variety of tactics will be needed to demonstrate that we are not a people who wake up from apolitical slumber once every four years to punch some holes in a piece of paper.
Live a life consistent with your beliefs. While this is not a concrete action, having a green lifestyle that reduces unnecessary cruelty is more than just the most ethically way to conduct oneself. It is a strong political tool. The more people who can tell their representatives, on a local or national level, about the steps they take in their personal lives, the more clout we will collectively have when we ask the politicians “what are you waiting for?”. If the ethical lifestyles we lead can pressure a politician, especially one as high up as the president, to make positive lifestyle changes, then our collective power will be undeniable.
Obama is far from a Godsend, and everyone must remain just as political for the years to come. He is going to need our attention and our pressure 100% of the time to ensure that he stays true to his words.
We of course should be thrilled that he beat McCain. But as both a pragmatist and idealist, I know that we must also work non-stop these next four years. We cannot sink into comfort and complacency, giving Obama a free ride to mediocrity. Kicking our feet up and sleeping through this historic period is not an option.
Yes, we can make a politician keep his promises. That will be the true change.