Shortly after Donald Trump was elected to be the 45th president of the United States, a prominent supporter cited America’s Japanese internment as precedent for mandating a Muslim registry. I was pained and enraged. As Japanese-Americans living in Sacramento during World War II, the federal government forced my great-grandparents to abandon their restaurant and relocate to an internment camp. This uneasy comparison between internment and a registry connected me to the struggle of recent immigrants and the real fear of living in a country ruled by a government that plays fast and loose with our civil liberties. It is one of many reasons Trump’s victory has me worried for my young children and what his dangerous agenda means for their safety and health.
Along with promises to register Muslims and build a wall, Trump’s plan for his first 100 days includes unraveling hard-fought environmental and climate policies. His to-do list is a depressing one for those of us who work to build a planet with a climate healthy enough to sustain the rich biodiversity that has existed for eons. He has already revived the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and plans to erase controls on power plant emissions, ease fuel economy standards, and renege on our nation’s international agreement to limit global warming. The new administration’s “drill-baby-drill” mantra promises oil companies unfettered access to fossil fuels on public lands and in our oceans. All of this adds up to a darker future for our next generation.
Rather than roll over, though, we’re standing up to resist. It’s the only thing to do in these difficult times with so much at stake.
I have my own 100-day plan. At the top of that list is to defend Obama’s recent orders that protected the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from offshore oil and gas drilling – a move that will keep billions of tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. I’m also gearing up to watchdog this administration and resist attacks on science, and policies that threaten our air, water, and wildlife. As an attorney, I’ll use every environmental law on the books to protect people and the planet. And I will stand in alliance with causes that are defending civil rights and liberties.
If lessons of the past serve, we can win, even with a hostile administration. In my formative years as an environmental attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity we faced the anti-environmental policies of past governments with good results. In 2007, during the Bush administration, I watched my colleagues prevail in a case that forced the government to consider greenhouse gas emissions while setting fuel economy standards. That case set the precedent that federal rulemakings had to disclose and consider their climate impacts. That same year, the Supreme Court decided the landmark case Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, which required the federal government to take steps to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
The next year, the Center secured endangered species protections for polar bears after a lengthy legal battle. It was a watershed moment in the climate movement because it put climate science squarely before the Bush administration and forced it to acknowledge climate change. We have really good environmental laws, and we will use them to win against the Trump administration, too.
This is not a time for complacency. We cannot wait-and-see, and the public cannot expect nonprofits to do the work for them. We the people have free speech, and this is the time to use it to fight abuses of our environment, combat abuses of civil liberties, and set this nation on a better course. Engagement is essential. We are living in a time when science, advocacy, media, and petition-signing are not enough on their own. We need to mobilize and show the strength of people power. I – along with other environmentalists, scientists, women, people of color, and those who stand beside them – must get out into the streets and resist.
I’m proud to say the resistance movement is already growing fast – hundreds have become thousands and thousands will become millions.
In a strange and totally unintended way, Trump’s election has done one thing that’s great: It has brought so many friends, neighbors, family members, coworkers, and perfect strangers together in a powerful union, ready to fight. I love linking arms with them and standing up for the values we all cherish.
Miyoko Sakashita is oceans director and senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity.
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