What the 2016 Election Results Mean for the Environment

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”— A tweet by Donald Trump.

Tuesday night, along with the rest of the world, I watched as our country elected the new President of the United States. There are an overwhelming amount of things I could say about the election’s result, but this article is going to focus on one thing: Earth. As an environmentalist, my heart shattered as I watched the map of the United States begin to bleed red.  I was watching the future of our planet, bleeding its life away as the numbers for Donald Trump crawled ever higher.

Every day I, along with countless others worldwide, dedicate hours of my life to studying one of the most imminent and consequential issues plaguing today’s world; climate change. The truth is, the current situation is much more dire than people care to believe. Our world is on the brink of falling over the point of no return. This is not to be blamed on lack of solutions; the recent developments in sustainability movements are astounding. We remain on the edge of disaster simply because we have not had the power of the people and the government behind these solutions.

Mankind is inarguably the most selfish species on the planet.  We’ve been overly generous in letting ourselves consume natural resources in an exponential fashion, and too ashamed to accept the consequences of our actions to be our own. Denial is our downfall. And yet, downfall is one of the key aspects enabling out economy to continue functioning.

This has remained true for the last eight years as well, but there still was hope.

While there was still much to be done, Obama did take initiative. He made progress on a global level after signing and officially instating the United States of America into the Paris Accord, an agreement between 190 countries considered the most ambitious agreement regarding climate change in history. This was a big deal. And Trump, the businessman he is, has declared he will “cancel” this deal, taking the United States off of the Accord.

Obama enforced the regulations of carbon emissions, to reduce our carbon footprint on the world. He did this by giving more power to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions coming from new and existing power plants. The excitement of oil industry executives should be warning sign enough that Donald Trump will not be enforcing these regulations. In fact he has declared these regulations as “needless” and plans to eliminate them completely, as well as diminish the power of the EPA to an “advisory” role.

As for Obama’s Clean Power Plan, wave it goodbye. Instead you can say hello to the expansion and exploration of new oil and gas resources. Proof of this can already be found in the falling stocks in solar and wind companies.

In December 2015, Trump was reported saying, "Obama's talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it's a hoax. It's a hoax. I mean, it's a moneymaking industry, okay? It's a hoax, a lot of it." Wrong. There is nothing about climate change that is moneymaking, this is actually the core of the issue. Sustainability efforts are going to require dedication and heavy financing, and it’s not the type of financing that businessmen crave. This financing isn’t going to directly benefit any single person, such as an executive, and it’s going to take a lot of money. In an economy and technological world that has become deeply accustomed to instant gratification very few companies possess the patience to pour money into efforts that deliver long term results. It’s all about the short-term, and in sustainability there are no short-term solutions.

Not to mention, global warming is an outdated term. One can trace back tweets made by Donald Trump to early 2014, and find the words “global warming” and “hoax” hand in hand with one another. What we need to be focusing on is Global Climate Change, as there isn’t a single area on Earth whose climate isn’t experiencing some level of change. One of the only times Trump mentions climate change instead of global warming was in an interview early this year with Fox and Friends:  "Well, I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change. I'd be — received environmental awards. And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change. They burn everything you could burn; they couldn't care less. They have very — you know, their standards are nothing. But they — in the meantime, they can undercut us on price. So it's very hard on our business." It’s clear though, after listening and studying his environmental platform (which perhaps should be labeled an anti-platform) he knows very little about the consequences of climate change.

The thing is, today’s society is the perfect enabler of men such as Donald Trump and their ideology. We live in an economy, which values economic growth in business, not sustainable growth. Success in the business world is defined by the amount of profit a business can procure. Financial growth is one of the driving factors behind our economy, and in turn our political system. In order for any substantial progress regarding sustainability to be made there needs to be a large-scale shift in ideology. We need to redefine what it means to be successful. Enough with economic growth, it’s time to prioritize sustainable growth and development. Our country needs to recognize there’s more to success then the money, success is defined by being a proactive citizen, paying our dues to the Earth that keeps us alive.  As soon as the people shift their values our political and economic systems will be forced to do the same. Without this shift nothing will ever change.

So I found myself on Tuesday night watching helplessly as I felt the purpose of my entire future, along with the future of our planet, slipping from my grasp. It wasn’t just that Donald Trump secured the presidency, it was watching as the Republican Party took hold over the Senate, House and Supreme Court.

Waking up this morning the future of our planet was bleak; I walked into my morning environmental sustainability class with a heavy heart and swollen eyes from crying. Looking at my fellow students was like looking in a mirror. Our professor came in, emotionally exhausted, a look I had never seen her wear. She stood for a moment then started speaking. After a night of crying I couldn’t help the tears that started to slip out once more. And while it was hard to recognize what she was saying as reality, it opened my eyes to the truth: it’s really up to us now. No more depending on our leaders to get the job done for us.

If anything these election results have strengthened one key point in democracy: it’s up to the people. Should we choose to shift our values towards the greater good of the planet there’s nothing any man, even the president, can do to stand in our way. We define the success of this nation, not Donald Trump. We define the purpose of our political system, our economy, and our businesses. With the recent election results, sustainability movements are going to be more important than ever, and they’re going to be harder than ever to get passed.  This just means it’s time to stand up and fight. Fight for the right to a healthy environment, for the inherent right our Earth has to live and thrive.

What do the 2016 election results mean for our environment? It’s going to be the hardest fight we’ll have to fight, but if there’s any hope left for our Earth, for our species, it’s going to be the fight we need to fight. If we don’t, there’s no coming back from it this time.