Trump, the climate, and what we can do

Anyone who doubts that humans are causing climate change can just look at Donald J. Trump. A president who withdraws from the Paris climate accords, puts a climate denier in charge of the EPA, scuttles President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and approves the Keystone XL pipeline – can cook the planet all by himself.

Let’s see what we need to change through political action. Then let’s see what Boston Climate Action Network is doing locally and how you can get involved.

Analysis. The three best pieces we’ve seen on Trump’s surge are by my friend Kim Scipes, David Scharfenberg and Bill Fletcher. Scipes provides the background: four-fifths of the country has been falling behind economically for at least the last 15 years, and of course they’re mad. Scharfenberg says that white voters feared they were losing their status, not just their jobs, and went for someone who’d restore their “prime place in the American pecking order.” Fletcher deepens the analysis: “this segment of the white population was looking in terror at the erosion of the American Dream, but they were looking at it through the prism of race.” And gender: “The election represented the consolidation of a misogynistic white united front.”

What to do about that? People of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ folks, women and everyone in the crosshairs of the right need to organize for their own defense. Allies can help by organizing “protection networks” that publicize right-wing attacks and broaden public support for those targeted.

White progressives can also use their skin privilege to talk with other white people, listen to what each person is saying and build the overlap where we agree. SURJ and the Knapsack Group are thinking about it, while Outreach to White Communities has actually been doing it. And Mayor Walsh is kicking off “a year-long project aimed at bringing small facilitated conversations about racism, healing and policy work out into all of the neighborhoods of Boston” next Saturday Nov. 19.

We also need to build progressive power in a couple of ways.*


What about the climate? Climate activism is a sprawling beast. Since action on the federal level will be greatly curtailed in the coming years, our position as a Boston-focused group gives us a way to keep making progress and set examples for other Massachusetts municipalities and beyond. As a climate justice group, we are committed to organizing that strengthens the most vulnerable and brings the benefits of the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy to every neighborhood. Right now we are:

  1. Kicking off “Renewables for All in Boston.” By passing a city ordinance, Boston can get every electric customer using more renewable energy at no added cost. This will
  • -quickly lower the city’s greenhouse gas footprint, and
  • -bring renewable power to communities that can’t afford rooftop solar panels, heat pumps, etc.

So it’s a climate mitigation project and a climate justice project. Come to our kickoff meeting Thursday, December 8, 7 pm at the First Baptist Church (633 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, next to the post office). If you want to get involved right away and help build this event, email us today.

  1. Stopping Boston’s biggest greenhouse gas — methane. Leaks from aging natural gas pipes contribute over one-third to the city’s greenhouse gas footprint, by our rough calculations. We co-launched a Gas Leak Allies Working Group that is pressuring the gas utility and state government to plug the leaks now, starting with a few “super-emitters” that leak half of all the methane. In January, we expect Boston’s City Council to vote on a gas leak ordinance that will speed pipeline repair. Email us if you’d like to work on this.
  1. Blocking new gas supply pipelines. There’s a lot of gas to frack in Pennsylvania (and New York). We’re between that gas and ports that could ship it to Europe. Gas companies still want to build huge new pipelines across Massachusetts. And developers in Boston are building 25 million square feet of new construction in the next three years. If those buildings are heated by natural gas, they’ll lock us into fossil fuels for the next 50 years. BostonCAN and allies want to make sure the City pushes developers toward climate-friendlier heating systems – and we may be blocking a pipeline in Boston itself.
  1. Working with the City. Greenovate Neighborhoods is forming a network of climate organizers to learn from each other, support one another, help carry out and shape the city’s Climate Action Plan. We need energy, ideas, and people in more neighborhoods. And the city will soon launch “Climate Ready Boston,” which will involve more organizations in climate preparedness (dealing with the unavoidable impacts of climate change) and, we hope, prioritize the most vulnerable populations. Email us if either of these initiatives motivates you.

Join our Action Team. We meet alternate Thursdays at 5:30 at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain (633 Centre Street). Next meeting is December 1. Email us to get on the Action Team list.

This is just a start. Working together, we and other activists can unify these three imperatives: working against white supremacy, organizing progressive political power, and saving the planet.

*Here is one roadmap for building a progressive political force.  Bob Wing, one of its authors, is keynoting “The Next Four Years: Building our Movements in Dangerous Times” conference December 3 in Boston. Jonathan Smucker also has good ideas about the shape of a progressive populist movement.