As the nation and world prepare for President-elect Donald Trump to step into office, the environment will likely face some of its most difficult challenges as climate change deniers acquire some of the most powerful roles in this country and seek to undo years of progress.
After the outcome of Election Day, we potentially face one of the most devastating attacks to our planet.
As a student studying the natural environment, this past week I have seen a brokenness among my peers that I’ve never experienced before. Environmental students and professors alike have cried and wondered where to go from here. The political acceptance of climate change as fact seemed fairly dismal before, but at least there was hope. This hope was nearly decimated on Tuesday night.
Climate change transcends political party, religion, sexual orientation, gender and race. As earth’s temperatures rise, everyone’s rights, livelihoods and prosperity are at stake.
Trump has put a climate change denier, Myron Ebell, in charge of his Environmental Protection Agency transition team. Our president-elect will halt the advancement of our nation’s clean energy programs, and will open environmental sanctuaries, like the Arctic, up to oil and gas drilling. He has vowed to cancel all the country’s “wasteful” payments to the UN to help with its climate change programs and withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
These actions jeopardize our country and introduce a dramatic twist in the international climate change battle. Fortunately, other countries have stated that they will step up to be leaders in this necessary effort if the U.S. fails to do so under the new administration. But without America’s help, this overall effort will be a much greater challenge. More countries will be threatened by the effects of climate change, as UN programs will have less of an ability to support the poorer and more vulnerable countries.
We could potentially have to work our entire lives to make up for Tuesday. With that said, do not underestimate the passion of those who realize humans are not the only marvel of this world. The sincere devotion of environmentalists who love what they study, protect, admire and serve will never go away, no matter who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Our government, politicians and many U.S. voters have failed, yet again, to prioritize the very land on which our society is built upon. To deny climate change’s existence is, to put it simply, a crime against humanity. But Tuesday affirmed that this crime will not face justice any time soon.
Any work to address climate change will solely need to be done without governmental support. The government was holding the environmental community over a cliff before, and they just let go of our hand. Anger and frustration are understandable — the fall is hard. But we know how to climb back up those remarkable rocks, no matter whether they are sedimentary, igneous or metamorphic.
To reach the top, we need to utilize the political power of human nature. Grassroots campaigns, nonprofit organizations, scientists, professors, students and many more will need to collaborate and unite to move forward without the government’s support. Firmly continuing the funding of research and conservation, using activism and peaceful protests to oppose environmental injustices, working with the international community that accepts and prioritizes climate change and making our voices heard to the politicians who still try to serve us will help drive the fight toward combatting one of the most pressing issues to face mankind.
To those who have lost hope, I ask you to stop and remember what surrounds you. We owe it to our environment to keep fighting for environmental justice, regardless of how impossible it seems.
To my peers, the students in environmentally-related majors and those who love the natural world, I implore you to keep working your hardest. Our places to fix this right now are in office hours to learn with the professors, in the library to continue studying those long hours or on campus to rally with our student organizations.
To the disrespected professors, you are amazing and your work is incredible. You also have many battles ahead but we thank you for inspiring us with your passion and knowledge. We will continue the fight with you for the practical application of your research. You have given us this responsibility, and we will carry it.
And for those who deny climate change, go ahead. We’re not waiting for your acceptance — we’re moving forward despite it because that’s what is necessary.
Sanober Mirza ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in environmental sciences and geography and the co-chair of REthink Wisconsin. REthink is an environmental organization that promotes sustainability on campus, who runs series of campaigns and events that raise awareness about making students’ daily lives more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.