The US exit from the Paris agreement, our Prexit, is an environmental catastrophe.
We needed every year of this US presidency to halt and reverse the damage from fossil fuels. We just lost them to the great distractor. Emergencies “improve” under Trump because he really doesn’t want people talking about important stuff like his Russian spy engagements or his invisible tax returns. He tosses sick old people out in the cold so we won’t notice his lack of vocabulary and constant self-aggrandizement.
This time, with Prexit, he has gone too far. Of course he can’t really pull out till 2020, according to the agreement and according to our allies, without a Senate vote. But these kinds of “little things” are beneath the attention of the Czar. He is larger than laws and rules and precedents. He is so petty that he can’t imagine Pittsburgh, Paris and the planet all in one great global breath.
How did this happen to the earth? It happened because the President (and his supporters) live in two small stories, both of which are false. His first story sees the United States as a victim. The President believes that the US has been “disadvantaged” and is a pitiless poor giant which other countries of the world rip off. He actually said, “They don’t make America first”—as if somehow they should—so “I must.” And (the Paris agreement) “is very unfair at the highest level to the US.” He believes the United States is a pitiful helpless giant.
The idea that we haven’t had enough carbon in our diet is absurd. We have already consumed way more than our share.
The second story is to imagine that we don’t share earth, air, water and sky with the rest of the world. Perhaps we can put up a wall and have our air be clean even if no one else’s is.
Now my only hope for citizenship, by which I mean caring for the globe as well as caring for my own country, is to befriend a few unlikely allies. If I want to advantage Pittsburgh and Paris and the planet, I need to tell a story beyond the victim story about the United States and its privatized and outsourced hopes for its own air and water, unconnected to that of others.
I feel right now that I need to make common cause with every sensible Republican I can find. And with China. And with California.
And speaking of the unlikeliest allies, perhaps even someone like ex-Exxon Rex Tillerson can help the President move into a more global story. During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State, Tillerson made comments about international climate treaties that reflect a larger story. “I think it’s important that the United States maintain its seat at the table in the conversation on how to address threats of climate change. They do require a global response. No one country is going to solve this alone,” he said.
Anything that requires a global response undermines Trump’s self-interested stories about “America first.” They also lend lovely credibility to French President Macron’s great tweet, “Make the Planet Great Again.”
There are other unlikely allies for those of us who are ashamed by the small American story. The biggest companies in the world are actively involved in clean energy policies. Calvert Research just issued a report, called “Power Forward 3.0,” which showed that 240 companies now have climate related goals, up from 215 three years ago. They include Prudential Financial, Wells Fargo, Dow Chemical, Apple and many more. None of these companies are what any of us think of as friends (even if our government does consider them people). But they are possible allies. And most importantly, in this absurd new reality, they might be nature’s allies. Nature transcends nations.
A word about nature. I love it so much that I am motivated to make friends with people who associate outside of my usual group. Why wouldn’t I walk back and forth across the American divide as often as possible? Why wouldn’t I join the birds in not understanding a national border? Or a political one that slots people into aisles?
I write in the name of the ferns and the porcupines, the orchids and the grasses, the unborn children and the forest. They can’t speak for themselves. And the President is their enemy, if he truly annuls Paris’ great hopes for nature.
Out of love, we must make new alliances, we must cross the divide.