America Defying Trump

In the gloom that has descended since last Saturday, here’s a ray of hope for us all. 

This is an article from last Sunday’s Observer, written by Mark Ruffalo and Rahwa Ghirmatzion

Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the historic Paris climate agreement and turn his back on the other 194 nations that signed it leaves him isolated on the world stage.

But Trump is also isolated from the very Americans he purports to lead and here lies hope. Across America, families, businesses, churches, institutions and governments are busy building a clean energy future and no president can stop that. When he announced the withdrawal from the Paris accord, Trump said: ”I was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” And that prompted the mayor of Pittsburgh to join other American mayors – more than 100 so far – in affirming his city’s commitment to move to 100% renewable energy. this reflects the fact that the people of Pittsburgh – and Philadelphia and Phoenix and Salt Lake City and towns and rural areas across America – want clean energy. In liberal areas and conservative ones, Americans are transforming the way they power their lives…

Consider Buffalo, in upstate New York. Once an industrial powerhouse, it lost half its population in the 2nd half of the 20th century and became the third poorest big city in the US. It is home to exactly the kind of “forgotten” people Trump talked about on the campaign trail. In a city featuring old houses and tough winters, heating bills regularly cost more than rent for some. But in a once-blighted area on the West Side, hundreds of residents are working with an organisation called Push /buffalo to weatherproof homes, install solar energy systems and build a stronger community, all the while training young people for good jobs in the emerging green economy.

On the other side of the country, California’s Asian Pacific Environment Network, organised i 8 languages, secured $2bn for solar development in low-income housing projects. In south Los ?Angeles, a community group called Strategic Concepts in Organising and Policy Education is helping low-income communities of colour take advantage of job opportunities in the clean energy economy.

But it’s not just city communities that are building a clean energy future that has the power to blunt the worst effects of climate change. So are rural states, including states whose people voted for Trump. Iowa produced more than 36% of its electricity from wind power last year, a bigger share than any other state. South Dakota gets almost 70% of its electricity from water and wind. In Kansas, wind energy has grown from less than 1% of the state’s electricity generation in 2005 to 24% in 2015. US business get it, too. Just ask Boeing, whose South Carolina factory is powered by 100% renewable energy. Wal-Mart, General Motors and other major US corporations are important customers for renewable power.

In our work with The Solutions Project and Push Buffalo, we have seen how clean and efficient energy projects are everywhere, from universities to churches, from factories to farms and from military bass to shopping malls.

Combating climate change is an important motivation for many of these efforts but we’ve seen that even Americans who don’t “believe” in climate change are embracing renewable energy. Some of them value cleaner air; others value energy independence and national security.

Simplifying it all is he economics: as renewables become as affordable as fossil fuels – and even cheaper than them they become more common. People in America are not only embracing these lower bills, they are embracing community ownership of renewable anergy infrastructure, creating good local jobs and building local wealth. Their vision is to transform America’s energy economy from a draining and extractive model to a regenerative and sustainable model that makes communities  and the nation – stronger.

Time and time again, Donald Trump has promised to help forgotten, hard-hit Americans, But trying to hold back the rising tide of clean energy will not help them – and it won’t work, anyway. The people will keep helping themselves to renewable energy. They are putting the country and their communities first in a way that also serves the planet. The US and the rest of the world will continue the historic march to clean energy for all – no matter who is in the White House.


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