Guest Article By: Avery T. Phillips
November 20, 2017 – Boise, ID (United States) – Since the current U.S. administration clearly isn’t willing to fight for sustainability, who is taking up the slack?
Now that the office of climate justice is shuttered, who will fight for social justice regarding climate change?
Should this effort be left to the United Nations—as well as, perhaps, to social workers and social justice advocates?
In 2010, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) decided sustainability is “the social justice issue of the new century,” according to Case Western University. How can the current corporate and political leaders halt or even reverse the effects of climate change for their customers and constituents?
U.N. Climate Summit Summary
The 2017 U.N. climate summit in Bonn, Germany, is “the first climate summit since President Trump has vowed to pull the United States out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement,” says Amy Goodman. And yet, despite the current administration’s official stance, there is still a U.S. government presence in Bonn representing Congress and local legislative leaders left of center.
As the NY Times recently reported, “American governors, mayors and business leaders have forged their own coalition, even taking over the United States pavilion at United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, this week.”
North American Sustainability & Social Justice
Public administrators, legislators, and nonprofit organizers can work together to manage resources and utility companies, perform cost-benefit analyses, and draft and implement governmental and public policy in the absence of any federal guidance from the U.S. government.
The push will need to come, it seems, from local organizations and private companies willing to implement clean energy standards into their CSR policies. There are also the numerous lawsuits currently underway in the absence of any firm federal guidelines or consequences for fossil fuel projects like the Keystone oil pipeline, which recently spilled over 200,000 gallons of crude oil in northeastern South Dakota.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is aiming for 2030 as the year renewables will take over as the primary sources of energy, rather than fossil fuels, but critics say this is still not enough. If the U.S. EPA’s current strategy is to have no strategy and to fail to adequately staff its offices — just as it’s attempted to understaff every other significant federal department of import to the opposing side — is this just politics as usual? Or is the U.N. Climate Summit representative of a shift from federal and public to private and local funding?
As Hawaii’s Senator Brian Schatz recently told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman regarding ocean warming, “It’s gone from an issue that only environmentalists cared about to an issue that almost everybody in the state of Hawaii cares about, because it’s really affecting our quality of life.”
Renewable Energy Job Progress
Two years after the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, the global climate and overall environment are still off track: as NY Times reports, “New data by the Global Carbon Project shows global carbon dioxide emissions are once again rising, after flatlining for three straight years.”
If renewable energy job growth is, in fact, outpacing the rest of the economy — twelve times faster, to be exact — why isn’t business keeping up the pace? Could it be that the Trump administration’s blockades are simply all rhetorical fire and brimstone, with no concrete possibility of actual deregulation?
Rhetorical fire and brimstone aside, the planet’s average temperature is still rising, Alex Kirby writes, “Despite the undoubted achievement of COP21 in Paris in 2015.”
In other words, we can talk about climate change all we want, but until more concrete protocols are put into place such as emissions reduction limits, expanded auto manufacturing guidelines, and public transportation mandates — as well as incentives for consumers to choose alternative forms of transportation, housing, and resources that do less harm to the environment — the climate summits will amount to nothing more than that: talk.
Keep an eye on North American companies like Tesla, Patagonia, and Solar Alliance Energy making significant progress on renewable energy standards. We need to do better when it comes to clean energy production, sustainable retrofitting, food production, transportation manufacturing, and renewable energy infrastructure.
The future of sustainability is likely to be tied to ambitious state and city leaders, as well as plucky entrepreneurs, green builders, and startups brave enough to make enough noise to be heard.
As the youth plaintiffs in Eugene, Oregon, are quickly proving to be true, however, the kids are alright: so alright, in fact, that they “have officially won the right to sue their government over global warming,” according to Vice’s Motherboard.
Maybe the children are our future, after all.
Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves exploring the U.S. mountains of SW Idaho and examining human interactions with the greater world at large. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.