It seems that Donald Trump was just sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.
I’ve seen a lot of posts to the tune of “this can’t be happening”/”this can’t be real”/”this must be a bad dream” after the election and in the weeks since, particularly given the influx of cabinet appointments of people who are either unqualified or have incredible conflicts of interest.
Y’all. This is happening. This is real. This is not a bad dream.
But you’re right in feeling that something’s not right. It’s not right that Congress has made it easier to transfer public lands to states, and easier for states to sell those public lands to private interests. It’s not right that Congress wants to make it harder for federal agencies to do anything about climate change or to classify species as endangered, regardless of what scientists have to say about either matter. It’s not right that Congress wants to gut the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and make it harder for similar laws – that protect all of us and our public spaces – to get on the books. As people who enjoy our outdoor public spaces, none of this should feel right.
But as today and tomorrow are days of action around the country, today I’m going to focus on concrete action. Here are some things you can do to try to protect our wild spaces:
1. Donate to organizations who have made this work their work.
Earthjustice works on turning science into environmental policy, and protecting the policies we already have in place from legal attack. The Sierra Club works to protect our lands and seas, and the Earth Policy Institute does work on environmental economics. If you’re not fiscally able to donate to these organizations, find an outdoors organization near you, and ask how you can help. Outdoors nonprofits are often looking for volunteers to do everything from trail work to help with accounting. Get involved however you can.
2. Keep your senators and congressfolk on speed dial.
Know who your representatives are, at the local, state, and federal levels. If you don’t know who they are, find out. Pay attention to legislation affecting the environment in your city/county/state/country, or if you don’t generally hear about such legislation, set up a Google Alert for environmental legislation. Call or fax your representatives – make it short and sweet, and make sure they take down your name and zip code. Attend town halls they put on if you can make it to one in your area. They work for you, so make sure they know how you feel about environmental issues.
3. Speak out about environmental issues in your social networks.
According to the Pew Research Center, about 40% of Americans get their news online. While it’s nice to see puppies and kittens and catch up with people via social media, it’s also a good place to disseminate information about topics that are important to you. Signing and sharing petitions online is useful, but it’s best to engage friends and family on these topics – both online and, if you get the time, in person. (I’d stay away from public comment threads, though – those are indeed a wretched hive of scum and villainy, and generally a waste of your time and blood pressure points.)
4. Take action yourself and involve your community.
Sign trail use registers to help management agencies track visitors for funding, practice LNT while you’re out there, and encourage others to get out there and do the same. Start book clubs and encourage outings to talks that help you learn about how to help the environment on a personal level. If you don’t have time to do all of this yourself, try to find organizations or clubs near you that do things like track legislation or politician’s votes, that gather locally-collected data, or that educate the public on environmental issues. Take your findings to local city council meetings, to local fairs and festivals, and other community events, to get as many people aware and involved as possible.
The biggest hurdle is apathy – feeling like you can’t do anything. But we can all do something, even if that something feels like a drop in the ocean, and the more of us drops that try, the bigger the impact we have.
If I missed anything, feel free to let me know in the comments. Otherwise, I’ll have a proper blog post up for you in a few hours.