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New Year and President Check-In

In case you haven’t heard, it’s 2021 (what?!), there is a raging global pandemic, white supremacists invaded the U.S. Capitol, Redditors have disrupted Wall Street by buying GameStop stock, America has a new President, and the U.S. has rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement. I haven’t posted much besides podcast shownotes in a while because I’ve been suffering from a complex case of writer’s block for months (maybe years?).

I am grateful that Trump is out of the White House limelight. He is a narcissistic tyrant who has used masterful hypnotic techniques to manipulate his economically anxious, white supremacist base for years. He also grew significant support from his economically savvy, white supremacist supporters who never went to his rallies, but live in towns, cities, churches, offices, and board rooms across America.

Pop quiz: can you name the common ground that connects all Trump supporters, no matter how different they appear on their face? My answer is white supremacy, the ethos that white people (and what they do, say, and create) are inherently better than people of all other races, which leads to all kinds of dehumanization and harmful systems of oppression. White supremacy is deeply embedded in America’s history, systems, sports, Netflix options, education, hospitals, job searches, public transportation, food systems, the locations of industrial plants — everything. If you are white like I am (and especially if you are white living in a mostly white suburb or rural area), you don’t see white supremacy as much, but it’s always present. There is so much dismantling to do, and it starts with honest acknowledgement of the problem.

While in office, the Trump Administration, bolstered by an overall belief in white supremacy, unapologetically kept children in cages separated from their parents, gutted environmental protection laws, made it easier to drill for fossil fuels, intentionally sowed lies that made the Covid-19 pandemic worse, incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and caused chaos for millions (billions) of people. I am grateful that he did not have another four years to commit more regulatory, physical, and cultural violence, and I visualize what true accountability for his actions will look like every single day.

This podcast episode by Brené Brown about words, actions, dehumanization, and accountability has really helped me sort through my feelings about the January 6th riot at the Capitol, white supremacy, and how to be in this moment.

There is much healing to do, and one piece of that healing is honestly addressing climate injustice, and that starts with re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement, which already happened on Biden’s first day in office. This is critical because in December 2015, nearly every nation on Earth met in Paris and agreed to meaningfully address climate change under the premise that the United States, one of the top three greenhouse gas polluters in the world, was committed to the Agreement, too. That premise was destroyed when Trump backed out of the Paris Climate Agreement in January 2017, his first full week of office.

Fast forward four years to January 20, 2021 — on the same day that Biden took his Oath of Office, he signed an Executive Order stating that the U.S. has re-joined the Paris Climate Agreement. Phew. Here is the Executive Order in its entirety:

ACCEPTANCE ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the Paris Agreement, done at Paris on December 12, 2015, do hereby accept the said Agreement and every article and clause thereof on behalf of the United States of America.

Done at Washington this 20th day of January, 2021.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

This one-sentence Executive Order will have an untold impact on our collective future because the Paris Climate Agreement is the basis for International cooperation around climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience. Nearly four years have passed since the U.S. participated in official Paris Climate Agreement implementation work — there are many relationships to repair and details to work through. John Kerry is Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change with a focus on international climate work and the Paris Agreement, while Gina McCarthy is tapped to be the White House National Climate Adviser and focus on climate action within U.S. borders.

I am optimistic that there will be multiple people addressing climate change at the national and international levels — it is this type of multi-layered strategy that we desperately need if we have any hope of addressing the wicked problem of climate change. Business as usual (i.e. operating under systems of white supremacy and capitalism) will continue to kill us, and I am ready to witness and participate in the massive shifts we need to keep things alive now, and for generations to come.