From now until at least the midterm elections in November, we’ll be featuring essays from powerful cultural voices alongside one simple thing, chosen by the author, that you can do to take action against the paralyzing apoplexy of the daily news. Maybe it’ll be an organization that deserves your donation; maybe it’ll be an issue that deserves greater awareness. Whatever it is, our aim is to remind you, and ourselves, of the big and small things we can do to work toward justice and change.
The Hundred Percent Doctrine
by Karen Joy Fowler
I commit to take action because Trump has no plan to keep us safe in a time of hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires, and extinctions. By us, I mean all of us — people, plants, fellow creatures, this land that belongs to you and me.
Back in the Pleistocene, when the war on terror was being sold to the American public, Dick Cheney said this: “If there’s a 1 percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” The stakes, a grave threat to life on earth, were too dire to do otherwise. This position came to be known as the One Percent Doctrine.
Today we might dub Trump’s response to climate change the Hundred Percent Doctrine. If you can find even one scientist who thinks climate change doesn’t pose a grave threat to life on earth, then you’re free to ignore the issue completely.
Did I say ignore? I meant exacerbate. Trump’s climate policy to date includes maximizing fossil fuel extraction and usage. He boasts of reducing environmental regulations and of withdrawing from international cooperation. He wants to mine uranium in the Grand Canyon, drill for oil off our coasts. He wants to bring back coal and reduce solar and wind energy. One of his first actions in office was to green-light the Keystone XL pipeline. By March he’d slashed federal funding for climate-change research. By August, the Department of Agriculture had actually forbidden the use of the words climate change themselves.
Only the military continues to plan for the catastrophe that 97 percent of scientists believe is coming, and those military plans are for adaptation, not avoidance. This is not an arena in which a military win is possible, not in the long run. So we have to ask ourselves: are generals and soldiers the people we want dealing with this issue? Are they the best equipped to save and manage diminishing resources?
We get this wrong and everybody dies.
The United States is an idea and a people, but also, importantly, a place. Trump is profoundly indifferent to the wealth we share—our beautiful parks, our coastlines, our fruited plains, and the aquifers over and into which the pipelines are already leaking. Laws to prevent the pollution of our air and water are being hastily repealed. In a reversal of fifty years of policy, industries can now kill migrating birds. Wolf pups can be shot in their dens, bears as they hibernate.
If Trump can’t put a thing in his bank account, it has no value to him. In fact, he appears to delight in its destruction. This spiritual void, in and of itself, should be disqualifying in a leader. His ignorance of and, more importantly, his uninterest in the challenges of climate change are definitely disqualifying.
Make America Great Again is a plan to look for the future in the past. It won’t be found there. No leader can remain ignorant of the ways the world is changing and also usher us safely onward. It’s our misfortune to live in a time where the future is unspeakably fragile, but the misfortune will fall most tragically on the generations to come. Trump is not the president we, and they, so desperately need.
Take action today:
There are any number of small actions you can take related to climate change, but the immediate job is to vote out of office all the people who insist the science is not there. Vote With Friends is one of many resources you can use to commit yourself and others to vote.
Karen Joy Fowler is the author of six novels and three short story collections. Her 2013 novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves won a PEN/Faulkner award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.