First I would like to extend my hearty congratulations to President Obama on a predictable* re-election! So much Chicago pride right now. I also want to offer sincere condolences to those whose candidate did not win, Stein and Johnson fans included. As a competitive person myself, let’s all just agree that nothing sucks more than the morning after your team doesn’t advance to the finals, your favorite on American Idol gets booted off, or the guy chooses the wrong Bachelorette. Except, of course, when the presidential candidate who lined up best with your values and in whom you invested all your passion, money, time and Facebook statuses for the past many months… doesn’t get the job.
I think we’re going to be okay, though. The Olympics reminded us all how good it feels to be on the same team. Go USA!
*All of the important factors pointed toward four more years: an improving economy, the huge advantage of incumbency, Romney’s inability to connect with women and minorities. If you’re wondering what my politics are, let’s just say that I grew up in a conservative household – my dad’s a Baptist pastor and my mom is a social worker for a Christian community center in Chinatown. I hope the GOP can restructure itself and become the moderate party it needs to be for the 2016 election.
Plus, exciting news in the world of environmental justice: President Obama’s awesome inaugural speech (read the transcript here) finally brought to national spotlight the fight against climate change: “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”
I hope I’ve made it clear throughout these posts that I truly believe the environment is the most important issue that the candidates needed (and largely failed) to address. Progressive laws need to be championed by a progressive President in order to regulate the use of our resources, enforce a tangible plan of attack against climate change, and ensure environmental justice for all socioeconomic classes, races and ethnicities. Jobs are good, but what use is money to deteriorating health? As my EJ hero, César Estrada Chávez, once said:
With all of these grave problems [that farmworkers face], why focus on pesticides? Because our people are so poor. Because the color of our skin is dark. Because the discrimination, the racism and the social dilemmas we confront transcend mere economic need. What good does it do to achieve the blessings of collective bargaining and make economic progress for people when their health is destroyed in the process?
The problems of an unhealthy environment will compound every other problem that we face, whether it’s a shaky economy, unemployment, health care, even social issues like gay rights and abortion will be moot points if rising sea levels causes freak weather systems to wipe us all out.
As Scott Rosenberg writes on the Grist blog, “In the wake of Sandy’s coastal devastation, there’s at least a chance of reopening the national conversation about global warming. It would be great for that conversation to be led by a president who’s a real climate crusader. Obama hasn’t been one, so far. But at least we’re not getting a denier in the White House.” It could be worse. No candidate can cater to so many different private and public interests that complicate the ways we protect the environment. However, President Obama at least acknowledges the need for change, whereas Gov Romney came across as openly hostile towards such efforts.
So what does this election mean for environmental justice in America? I hope the President remembers how close his structural victory was. That is to say, half this country doesn’t agree with enough of his positions to vote for someone else. Laws that enforce environmental justice, hold big corporations accountable and decrease our carbon output won’t come easy. Changing the fossil fuel industry will not be easy. Obama is returning to a divided country and Congress (Senate remains under the control of Democrats and the House under Republicans, who will challenge the President as much as they did the past four years.) But he seems to be getting off on the right foot. Let’s hope his actions speak louder than his words last night.
Here’s to four more years of change.
- Some important environmental ballot initiatives from around the country that won or lost last night, Grist
- Three ways that Obama’s re-election affects the future of our environment (keystone XL pipeline, energy, climate change), Mother Nature Network
- President Obama and global warming, The Guardian