words by Willow Defebaugh
Welcome to The Overview, a weekly newsletter in which Editor-in-Chief Willow Defebaugh offers an expansive look at the latest events in climate and culture—and how it all fits together.
This week, the Trump administration gave the United Nations official notice that it would withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. So what does that mean?
Under the agreement, 200 countries have declared that they would cut back their greenhouse gas emissions and aid poorer nations in combating the worst effects of the climate crisis, which we are already seeing. If President Trump has his way, the country that has contributed the most to global heating—the U.S.—will not be included in that list.
And it is an if. The U.S. cannot formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement until the day after the 2020 presidential election. Even if Trump carries out his plan, it would only take a new president 30 days to reverse it and get us back into the Agreement. More than ever, the power is in the hands of the voters to decide our future—a future that 11,000 scientists from around the world came together this week to say is in danger of “untold suffering.”
Former Vice President Al Gore released an official response to President Trump’s notice, saying: “Hundreds of thousands of people, of all ages, have taken to the streets demanding their communities, employers, schools, and representatives take action to help save the climate balance. These actions are far more powerful and impactful than the distractions and false promises coming from the White House.”
When it comes to not backing down, Gore isn’t alone either. The coalition We Are Still In is a collection of over 3,800 American businesses, states, cities, universities, religious groups, and other organizations who have pledged to continue working to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. From large businesses like Walmart to entire states like New York and California, altogether, these entities represent 70% of the country’s gross domestic product, and two-thirds of its population.
And there are countless others. Jane Fonda, for one, has been arrested in Washington for five consecutive weeks in a row protesting on the Capitol to raise awareness as part of her Fire Drill Fridays movement. “This is the kind of thing that has to become normal, given what is going to have to happen,” the 81-year-old actress said. “We have to not be afraid. And we have to see this as the way good citizens of the United States need to act. We need to be in the streets making our demands heard.”
As with any democracy, America has never been defined by its leader, but rather its people—and the people have spoken. We are still in.