By Cody Petterson with Tommy Hough
First and foremost, we hope all of you are healthy and safe during this unusual moment in history. Our club members are family, and we think of you and miss you at our monthly gatherings.
As Earth Day 2020 nears, our thoughts turn to the health of our planet, to the multitudes of life with which we share our home, and to the work we have done and have yet to do to protect and preserve it. To be frank, the year has been difficult, the moment in which we find ourselves is challenging, and the vista ahead is troubling.
Environmentalists must wrest partial, provisional victories from the vast, implacable, merciless destructiveness of human civilization. This work requires both a recognition of the global calamity unfolding around us, and a determination to save what we can, in spite of the longness of the odds.
The coronavirus pandemic has made our work much more difficult. We are, above all, organizers, and organizing is quintessentially a social activity. Environmentalists around the world are innovating new ways to connect and motivate people, but the inability to gather is an inherent impediment to accumulating the social capital we need to build and maintain a movement.
Furthermore, the pandemic has understandably drawn the attention of citizens, media, and elected officials away from our climate emergency and ecological collapse. This relative inattentiveness will likely be a headwind for environmental organizing for the duration of the pandemic.
Even worse, with the attention of the public drawn to COVID-19, the Trump Administration and its allies in extractive industries like petroleum, mining, and timber have intensified their assault on our open spaces, special places, and National Parks. Globally, institutions like the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, which had begun a process to map out and chart ambitious agendas for greenhouse gas emissions reduction, have shifted their focus almost exclusively to staving off a COVID-related global depression.
At the local level, sprawl developers are rushing to weaken our climate action plans and sneak through project amendments while the public is focused on the immediate health and survival of their families.
While the dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and industrial and transportation-related pollutants has given our planet a brief respite – and all but killed the U.S. fracking and shale gas industries – it has also driven oil prices to the lowest levels in decades and reduced the relative attractiveness of alternative energy investment and development.
We at San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action are committed to working with our diverse set of allies in the environmental movement to innovate new ways of keeping our members informed, organizing our communities, resisting the efforts of anti-environmental interests to exploit the virus to further degrade our climate and ecosystems, and preparing the movement to radically transform our societies and governments in the wake of the pandemic.
Of all the holidays, Earth Day may be the hardest to celebrate alone. It is a particularly cruel twist of history that the 50th anniversary arrives at this moment, when the U.S . environmental movement has been pushed to its lowest ebb since the end of World War II – the result of the Trump administration's daily desecrations, GOP intransigence and long-simmering hostility toward conservation, and the weak lip service many Democrats pay toward meaningful environmental progress. Elections truly have consequences.
Earth Day is a celebration of the oneness of all life and our mutual interdependence and responsibility. It is also a repudiation of the social isolation that leaves each lifeform to fend for itself in the midst of global ecological collapse. In some ways, little has changed in our pursuit of a more livable planet and meaningful environmental justice since the first Earth Day 50 years ago this month, as detailed in the 1970 ABC News story linked below.
But be assured, we will not be silent, and we will not cede the progress of the last three generations to the ugly, modern spasms of ignorance and greed that Trump personifies. Environmentalists have never had easy fights. The campaigns to preserve the Redwoods, the Mojave Desert, Stanislaus River, and National Parks like Grand Canyon, Pinnacles, or Joshua Tree took decades. We must now fight to retain what has been preserved, and at the same time move forward with building greater coalitions to end the use of fossil fuels, protect our climate and oceans, preserve habitat and open space, ensure real environmental equity, and embrace more livable and sustainable cities and communities.
Our club is exploring on-line opportunities for programming to virtually reaffirm our connections, and the fundamentally social nature of our work. We'll have more details on how this will occur, even as our regular, in-person meetings and gatherings remain on hold for the time being.
In the meantime, please don't hesitate to reach out to us or our club's executive board if you need assistance. Ours is a community and a family. We're here to support one another in good times and bad.
And take a moment to appreicate the far-reaching views and cleaner-than-normal air this spring. If the coronavirus pandemic has shown us anything, it's that demonstrable, rapid change in habit, behavior, and society are indeed possible.
The blog component of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action welcomes content from SDCDEA members, guests and leadership.