Standing Up for Our Values in the Age of Trump

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Standing Up for Our Values in the Age of Trump

The administration’s assault on our environment and health is unlike any threat we’ve ever faced. The time has come to join together to stop the Trump agenda.

We are not going to back down from this fight. (Photo: AP)

Donald Trump opened his presidency Friday with actions directly at odds with American values, job creation, and prosperity—actions at odds even with his own inaugural address.

As he vowed to hold companies to account for moving jobs overseas, he and his team began working to free those same companies to pollute our environment and threaten our health here at home. 

As he pledged to restore the voice of the American people, he was moving to dim public input and put our government under the control of some of the biggest industrial polluters on the planet. 

And as he promised to harness the energies, industries, and technologies of tomorrow, he was already acting to strangle the fast-growing clean energy economy and anchor our future to the dirty fuels of the past. 

In its first official action, the new administration posted on the White House webpage a set of issues, topped by a pledge to scrap former president Barack Obama’s strategy for fighting climate change.

We won’t turn our back on the central environmental challenge of our time. We just wrapped up the hottest year since global record keeping began in 1880. It was the third year in a row that we broke that record. The rules of nature have not been rescinded, nor has the judgment of science. We need to reduce the dangerous carbon pollution that’s driving global climate change.

The strategy Trump wants to eliminate, the Climate Action Plan, has successfully guided years of progress in reducing the carbon footprint of our cars, trucks, factories, and homes and in cleaning up the nation’s dirty power plants. It helped us invest more in efficiency so we do more with less waste, advanced our development of all-electric and hybrid cars, and helped us get more clean power from wind and the sun.

"We will not go back. We will not surrender the hard-won ground so many struggled and sacrificed so much to gain."

That’s essential progress—and it’s real work that employs 2.5 million Americans in one of the fastest-growing sectors of our economy. These are good paying jobs that can’t be outsourced for steelworkers, electricians, window glazers, tool and die makers, and scores of other occupations vital to the recovery of our heartland economy. And in doing what’s right for us here at home, we led the world to the historic climate accord in Paris, which gathered the United States, China, India, and more than 185 other countries around real plans to shift away from dirty climate-wrecking fossil fuels and toward cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.

Turning our back on the economic play of our lifetime isn’t a jobs program. Walking away from a triumph of climate leadership at home and abroad isn’t about advancing American interests. And swapping American innovation for the ways of the past won’t harness the promise of tomorrow.

It’s all a big handout to the oil, gas, and coal companies Trump has given a front-row seat at the table of American government, and we will fight this handout, tooth, nail, and hair.

Similarly, Trump pledged to kill the Clean Water Rule, which Obama put in place to provide needed protections to the wetlands and streams that feed drinking water supplies for one in every three Americans. Who benefits from Trump’s plan to spike the rule? Big polluters who want to use our natural waterways as their own private dumping grounds.

And we know what to expect in the days to come, based on Trump’s cabinet selections—a pollute-tocracy of fossil-fuel backers and environment attackers—their public testimony, and the actions of Republicans in Congress. Trump and his fellow Republicans have launched the worst legislative and administration assault in history on our environment and health. And you can bet we’re going to fight that, too.

National unity, government by the consent of the governed and better jobs for all our people are common goals will all share. Trump’s inauguration, though, has ushered in something very different. On Friday, we entered a new era of American governance led by billionaires, industrial czars, and a president who speaks of taking us back to some distant and hazily remembered past.

Back to a time when nations might be isolated by oceans and walls. When entire groups of Americans might fear for their basic rights. Back to when journalists could be punished for reporting the news and American heroes falsely slandered for their views. Back to when industry could pollute our waters, air, and lands, and we had no better option for powering our country than to dig up fossil fuels and set them on fire.

Elections are normally about the future, not the past. This election, though, was not normal and neither are its consequences. Those of us who care about the kind of world we create for ourselves and leave to our children are called upon now to stand strong for what truly makes America great—and that’s exactly what we’ll do.

We will not go back. We will not surrender the hard-won ground so many struggled and sacrificed so much to gain. We will not abandon our duty to build for our children on the progress of our forebears. We will not turn from our pursuit of equity, justice, and fairness for every American.

We will do, instead, as generations of Americans have done before, and forge ahead, not because we reject the outcome of our political system but because we insist that the will of all our people be faithfully honored and fairly assessed.

We will do, as our founders called upon us to do, and hold our government to account. For careless words and misguided deeds that undermine our greatest strengths. For callous judgments that turn the engines of national prosperity to the profits of a wealthy few. For reckless policies that put polluter profits first and put the rest of us at risk.

That’s how we stand up for our values in this age as in all others. 

Rhea Suh

Rhea Suh

Rhea Suh is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

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