In the weeks that followed the election I participated in numerous strategy calls and webinars with fellow travelers in the clean energy, climate action and sustainability fields as our movement tried to grapple with what had happened. There is such a sense of loss, a feeling that just as we had really begun making progress on climate action, the rug has been yanked out from under us. Yeah, it hurts.
But along with our pain, anger and fear there is also strong resolve. And that’s not surprising. Our movement isn’t made up of quitters. We’ve been pushing boulders uphill against heavy opposition for decades. We’ve made real progress and in the process we’ve built strong Resiliency Muscles.
There’s no question we’re headed into a time of uncertainty and potential danger ….. but this is no time to duck for cover and hunker down. This is the time to flex our Resiliency Muscles to turn Trump-trauma into opportunities.
Here are some opportunities I see in the New Year and new political reality:
- Grow and Unify Our Movement:
In the twenty years I’ve been doing this work I have never seen such solidarity between environmentalists, progressive business owners, racial injustice activists, low-income advocates and faith leaders from all walks. The U.S. sustainability movement has always been less influential than it could be because the various segments have not integrated. In contrast, in Europe, environmental and social justice advocates have been much more aligned and the results have been stronger.
Now, faced with the most blatantly anti-environment, pro-big oil, racist, elitist president and administration in modern history, the opportunity (and call) is to bring our progressive movement together and become more powerful than the sum of our individuated parts.
- Clear out Anesthetizing Illusions
One thing this election clearly showed us is that huge numbers of Americans are tired of status quo politics. Trump’s win and the massive movement that Bernie Sanders built are both evidence of the desire for deep change. That’s a good thing. We need it. To be blunt, our entrenched two-party system is failing us and it is illusion to believe the solution is just to return to Democratic Party establishment, pro-corporation status quo.
We are living under an economic system that is wiping out wildlife, strip-mining our oceans, and saturating our atmosphere with pollutants that are super-heating the planet with catastrophic effect all the while hugely increasing income inequality. The Big-Oil, Wall Street driven policy ideas put forward by the Trump administration aren’t going to address these challenges but neither would the Democratic Party’s corporate-friendly policies. The opportunity before us is to
nurture the seeds of real change that began to germinate in 2016.
- Reinvent Our Relationship with Media
If there’s one thing I agree with Trump on it’s that the current mainstream media model is dishonest and ineffective. I would go further and say it’s destructive, both to individual lives and to democracy. I have seen this first hand when I and my fiancé, the Governor of Oregon, were targeted by agenda-driven, sensationalist media assault.
Corporate media’s business model relies on triggering our emotions to get us to watch and click on things on their websites. As I’ve written about numerous times, “Breaking News” is not really news, it’s infotainment, whether you’re watching FOX or MSNBC. This is a media business model in which traffic-trumps-ethics and accuracy.
Do I think a Twitterin’ Chief is a healthy alternative? No! But one of the most important actions we can take as sustainability professionals, activists and people who care about the future we’re leaving to our children is to be very disciplined in where and how we interact with media. We must question all “news” we are being fed and more than ever before we must support independent journalism. Some of the sources I find most credible and useful include:
- The Nation
- The Guardian
- BBC, PBS and NPR
- Inside Climate
- Climate Nexus
- Yes! Magazine
Another aspect of being media savvy is to get out of our own echo chambers and see what other echo chambers are talking about. Every so often I dial in to FOX news or Patriot radio. Does it often make my blood boil? Yes. But here’s the deal. Most progressives missed the mark with this election. Most just scoffed at Trump. I didn’t. Given what I knew other echo chambers were focused on I knew he was going to hit a nerve and I knew he was going to be able to manipulate the sensationalist corporate media industry. Making real change isn’t for wimps. It’s time to suck it up and step outside of our comfort zones and personal bubbles.
- Let Your Values Shine and Sell!
It’s almost certain that we are entering an era in which the federal government will severely weaken environmental protections and sustainability policies. And yet, poll after poll shows that a large majority of Americans favor strong action to protect the environment and address climate change. In addition, global consumer demand for sustainable and socially conscious products continues to grow at a rapid clip.
This is a critical time for social/eco entrepreneurs to lead, to take a stand and set an example. It’s a chance for companies committed to the common good to provide critical leadership to protect our planet and our children. And it’s a huge opportunity to distinguish ourselves and grow customers and loyalty as we decide to hold the High Watch and adhere to higher standards in these tumultuous times.
In addition to reducing our environmental footprint, social/eco entrepreneurs can also help reduce hate and “othering”. The Mainstreet Alliance has produced a wonderful “Hate Has No Business Here” poster, available for free download, for businesses that want to express their support and acceptance of people with diverse ethnicities, faith paths and sexual preferences. 3EStrategies proudly displays the poster on our front door and I am seeing them all over the place now.
- Put Your Oxygen Mask on First — Then Help Others with Theirs
It’s likely to be a bumpy ride for our nation and the environmental and sustainability movements in particular. It will be important to take good care of ourselves, and one another, in the months ahead.
- Establish/ Prioritize an “Inner Life Workout Program”. I have found that there is never a better time to prioritize our spiritual practices and inner work than when things are really challenging in the outer aspects of our lives. In fact, this inner work is essential to developing really strong Resiliency Muscles. Whatever this means for you – meditation, prayer, church, study – it will be important to carve regular time for it even as things happening around us feel urgent and uncertain.
- Prioritize time in Nature. I hear so often from people (including me!) who are fully engaged trying to protect the environment that they rarely make time to get out into it. There are few things more restorative.
- Celebrate successes. When we’re working toward big changes to big systems it’s easy to always be pushing for more without taking a moment to celebrate the victories along the way. However, celebrating those stepping stone victories builds momentum for the movement and staves off burn-out for each of us.
- Gather with, support and offer kindness to fellow travelers. This will be a time to shore ourselves up by getting together with people who share our loves and hurts about what is happening to our planet. Toward that end, 3EStrategies will be offering programs over this coming year to provide healing, coping and inspiration tools to environmentalists and social/eco entrepreneurs (more to come).
- Remember how big and powerful our movement really is. The movement toward clean energy and climate action is now hugely global. It is going to keep rolling no matter what the U.S. government does. And not only is demand for socially-responsible products on the rise, recent polls suggest that a majority of global online consumers say they are willing to pay a bit more for those types of products and business practices.
Finally, be sure to maintain hope and humor. Remember the words of Captain Dylan Hunt, a post-apocalyptic character created by Gene Roddenberry, “Pessimism is not a survival trait.” A little levity is going to be key as we move forward together, going boldly where no one has gone before.
Here’s to hoping for positively surprising outcomes in this New Year!
#3EStrategies #CylviaHayes #LivingEarthMatters #ResiliencyMuscles