I’m not sure how many Americans actually paid attention, but Thursday was a rough one for those of us who enjoy the outdoors, who love our kids, and who understand that climate change is a huge threat to our country, our economy and our future.
In case you haven’t heard, Donald Trump stood up in the Rose Garden on Thursday afternoon and announced that the U.S. was pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
A fair amount of the subsequent media discussion focused on the nuts and bolts of the accord. Would it still hold together once the U.S. bailed? Was it strong enough to make a difference? How would Trump’s actions impact our relationships with China, India, Germany and Russia?
While all those questions are important, and while America’s abrogation of international leadership has attracted a ton of attention, both here and abroad, I’m afraid we’re missing the larger point.
Millions and millions of Americans who understand the nature of the climate crisis, and who fear for our families if global warming continues unabated, did not see the Paris Climate Agreement as a solution. We knew that, in and of itself, this version of the accord wouldn’t get the job done. What it was, though, was a symbol of hope; a pathway to a viable future.
There’s a certain comfort in knowing that people the world over face the same threat we face, and that humanity, en masse, sees the necessity of working together on a solution that will benefit us all.
At its core, the Paris Climate Agreement offered us the hope that we could address global warming and secure a safe and prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.
So when Trump turned his back on the accord, he didn’t just shift U.S. resources, or recalibrate our international relationships, or turn our energy policy in a new direction. Instead, he did his best to steal our future. His words tried to douse the flames of science and progress that illuminate the world and hold back the darkness.
In a very real sense, Thursday was a burning of books; a repudiation of shared wisdom. Trump, for reasons perhaps only he himself understands, tried to replace a symbol of hope with another, far darker image. The only question that remains is whether he succeeded, or whether those of us who prefer to walk in the light can keep the candles of knowledge and wisdom burning.