I sit to write this two weeks after witnessing a genuine earthquake in US politics. I supported the candidate that I thought would advance policies most earth-friendly and people-friendly. What 25.5% of eligible voters chose was a set of policies that, if enacted, insure a much warmer earth, with all the accompanying dramatic changes in climate that scientists have already started to document. 25.5% of all voters chose a candidate whose campaign engaged in misogynistic, racist, nationalistic and xenophobic vitriol. 25.5% of voters chose a set of policies that are sure to leave millions uninsured, to increase the cost of living throughout the country, to run the US deeper into the red ink, and will fail to deliver on the oft promised job return. It was a stunning result, evident by 11PM EST on Tuesday, November 8th.
I have participated in my share of elections. A candidate wins and a candidate loses. When the candidate I support loses, I’m disappointed. When my candidate wins I’m delighted. You win some and you lose some. This seems different to me, somehow. Perhaps it’s the ugliness of the language of those who now have freed themselves from any inhibition to echo the ugliness of the President-elect’s campaign. Perhaps it’s the people, who on November 8th felt safe in their own country, and who by the end of that day, no longer felt safe. And these are US citizens I refer to! Is this hyperbole? Perhaps it is, perhaps it is not! But this election does seem different!
So how does one respond? I’ve been asking myself that for seven days now. I first decided to pray for our President-elect, every day; I pray that he be given the wisdom and humility that the Office of President of the United States demands. I then realized that I need to somehow stand with those who now feel unsafe. As a white middle-class man, it is usually the case that I don’t have to ever second guess my actions, my words, or my inactions. That is not true for millions of my fellow citizens who find themselves a target because of their skin color, their sexual orientation, their religious beliefs or their political ideals. I am still not sure what “standing with” involves, but I’m pretty sure it involves listening, learning, allowing myself to confront those biases that lurk just beneath the surface of my consciousness. It would be foolish to ever think that I’m somehow “above” being biased. Again, such a thought is a privilege of being a white American male.
The third thing I thought was that I have to act on behalf of what I think is the most pressing challenge of our time. It is not education, it is not defense, it is not tax reform. The most pressing challenge of our time is climate change. Why? Because if we do not get our energy consumption patterns on a more sustainable path we will make it highly unlikely that human beings can live on this planet. Can education, defense and tax reform have an impact on our ability to change our energy consumption patterns? You bet! But we have to identify the primary challenge, and have that direct our strategic planning and tactical interventions.
On October 23, 2016 Rabbi Arthur Waskow delivered the 9th Thomas Berry Lecture for CFET. He challenged us to make a commitment to do something in response to the challenge of climate change. We have created a Facebook page that we invite you to join. Search “One Earth One Family, Together” and read what people are doing. Tell us what you’re doing. My response will take the shape of setting up information seminars for people to learn more about solar energy production on their residential roofs. If the newly elected administration goes through with pulling the US out of its commitments to the Paris Climate Accord, we citizens need to do the “bit” we can do, locally, to witness to a less environmentally destructive lifestyle, but we also need to witness to the resilience that communities will need to adapt to the increasingly rapid shifts in our climate. Learning to find opportunities to be sustainable in our lifestyles will help us, and our children, in the future.
So, mark your calendars. Saturday, January 28, 2017 (10 – Noon) and Sunday, January 29, 2017 (12:30 – 2:30PM) at CFET we will host a seminar with a local dealer in solar energy production. A solar representation will educate us on what is available, how it works, how it might impact our lifestyles. He will also answer any and all questions about having solar panels installed on your roof.
It is not wise to bemoan the election of our next President. It is wise, and our duty, to stand fast to our principles, to our commitments and to those who stand with us. There is a lot of work to do, and justice to be pursued, and a healthy earth to nurture. Let’s get back to it!
Mark Doorley, Ph.D.