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Many Californians woke up the night after the presidential election thinking they were living in a different country. A few felt so alienated that they publicly raised the possibility of seceding from the United States.

There is no constitutional way, however, to do this. But there is a less radical step that would amount to a limited secession and would require only an act of Congress. Forty-five percent of the land in California is administered by the federal government—including 20 percent of the state in national forests and 15 percent under the Bureau of Land Management. Rather than outright secession, California could try to assert full state sovereignty over all this land.

Until Nov. 8, California wouldn’t have cared about this, but with the prospect of a Donald Trump administration soon managing almost half the land in the state, Californians may want to rethink their traditional stance. Otherwise, they are likely to face more oil and gas drilling, increased timber harvesting, intensive recreational use and more development on federal land in the state.

Much of the rest of the West, moreover, might support this cause. In recent years, Utah has been actively seeking a large-scale transfer of federal lands. During the Obama years, Utah’s government deeply resented the imposition of out-of-state values on the 65 percent of the state that is federally owned—just as California may now come to resent the outside imposition of new land-management practices by a Trump administration.

Utah, ironically, may now see a comprehensive land transfer as less urgent. That has happened before: The election of President Reagan in 1980 took the steam out of the Sagebrush Rebellion in Utah and elsewhere in the West. In retrospect, however, that proved to be shortsighted, as future administrations reversed course and asserted even more authority over Western lands.

If California were to lead the charge—especially with Trump as president—fundamental changes in the federal ownership of land in the West might become more politically feasible than ever before. There are additional strong arguments, moreover, for a transfer of federal lands (excluding national parks and military facilities) in the West to the states today. Over the region as a whole, the federal government owns almost 50 percent of the land. When Washington, D.C., imposes policies and values that conflict with the majority views of the residents of whole states, the federal government, in effect, takes on the role of an occupying force. It may not be traditional colonialism, but there are resemblances.

Defenders of federal land management argue that the public lands belong to all Americans. Although advocates of a federal land transfer promise to keep the lands in state ownership, many Westerners fear that the states might privatize the lands outright or administer them for narrowly private interests. The implicit assumption in this is that there are core national values that should govern public-land management in all the Western states, and that the federal government is best placed to advance these values. But the reality is that Americans are today deeply divided on many fundamental value questions—and these divisions are often geographically based.

Since at least the 1990s, many Westerners have become convinced that the management of federal lands in the West is dysfunctional, no matter what party is in power. This should come as no surprise, since much of Washington itself is dysfunctional.

So I propose the following. Congress should enact a law allowing each state to call a referendum on the question: Do you want the federal government to transfer federal lands in your state (excluding national parks and military lands) to state ownership? If the vote is affirmative, a transfer would follow automatically. You might call it a Scotland solution, adapted to American circumstances.

California could pursue its preservationist values, while Utah could allow wider access to its new lands. With public-land management decentralized to the state level, where there would be greater basic agreement on ends and means, it might finally be possible to overcome the political paralysis of the current federal land management system centered in Washington.

So I say: Let Californians decide if they want to secede, at least in this partial way. Let residents of other Western states decide as well.

Robert H. Nelson is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News, where this piece first appeared. He is a professor in the School of Public Policy of the University of Maryland and, from 1975 to 1993, worked for eight secretaries of the Interior Department.

Published in Community Voices

On this weeks nog-drenched weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat predicts a future rescue; Jen Sorenson goes back to the 1990s to warn people about today's goings-on; The K Chronicles tries to buy a house; and This Modern World investigates Internet "news."

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One week after the presidential election, on a summery November day, I phoned Denver-based climate activist Jeremy Nichols.

Nichols has pressured the government to keep its fossil-fuel reserves in the ground, with some success: In January, the Obama administration put a moratorium on federal coal leasing, something unimaginable during the heady drilling years of Bush and Cheney. I called to ask what Nichols expected from the next president. He remarked on the unseasonably warm weather, then lamented, “I’m going to yearn for the George W. Bush days.”

Environmentalists have good reason to worry about President-elect Donald J. Trump. In 2012, Trump tweeted that climate change was a “concept” ginned up by the Chinese. Now, he’s appointed a prominent critic of climate science and policy to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency’s transition. On his new website, Trump promises to grease the permitting skids for fossil fuel production, end the “war on coal,” support renewable energy and scrap the Clean Power Plan. At the same time, he professes a commitment to “our wonderful natural resources.”

The energy industry is delighted. “I think what we’re looking for right off the bat is simply having an administration that is not openly hostile to us,” says Kathleen Sgamma, of the Western Energy Alliance.

Meanwhile, conservationists expect to spend the next four years defending their Obama-era gains. But Obama’s environmental achievements are considerable, and Trump can’t vanquish them with a snap of his fingers. Many power plants have already taken steps to rein in toxic mercury emissions and pollutants that cloud parks and wilderness with brown haze. Obama’s clean car rules have already stood up in court. So far, Obama has designated 27 national monuments—more than any other administration—and the new president has no clear legal authority to erase those protections.

Still, the carbon-cutting Clean Power Plan, one of the president’s most significant accomplishments, is in peril. And the rarely used Congressional Review Act allows Congress to weigh in on any rule finalized after May 30 of this year, according to a Congressional Research Service estimate, by giving it 60 days in session to pass something called a “joint resolution of disapproval.” If the president signs the resolution, the rule is nullified, and agencies are forbidden to issue similar rules.

Here are some of the Obama administration’s achievements and Trump’s position on them, if known, and explain how Trump could attempt to undo them.


Federal Coal Leasing Moratorium

What Obama did: In January, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell issued a “secretarial order” directing the department to stop leasing federal coal reserves, pending a review of the program. Environmentalists like Nichols had pushed for this, arguing that leasing federal coal was inconsistent with Obama’s climate goals, and that the program didn’t deliver fair returns to taxpayers.

Trump’s take: One of the few specific promises Trump has made is to lift the moratorium.

Trump’s options: Trump’s administration can scrap the moratorium with the stroke of a pen—the same way the Obama administration created it.


BLM and EPA Methane Rules

What Obama did: Both the EPA and Bureau of Land Management finalized rules this year to limit the amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, vented or flared by oil and gas drilling. The rules would limit those emissions at both new and existing facilities and funnel additional royalties to taxpayers, who don’t currently earn revenue on methane that’s burned as waste.

Trump’s take: We don’t know. However, Trump has positioned himself as a staunch ally of the industry, which vigorously opposes the rules. The BLM’s rule, finalized on Nov. 15, was met immediately with an industry lawsuit. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, released a statement saying he looks forward to helping the new administration rescind the rules.

Trump’s options: Congress could use the Congressional Review Act to ask Trump to nix the rules, or include language in appropriations bills temporarily prohibiting the agencies from using funds for implementation or enforcement. Whatever happens, Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, of the Western Environmental Law Center, notes that waste prevention is a core principle of federal oil and gas law, and says his group will continue to ensure that BLM fulfills its legal obligations.


Oil and Gas Leasing Reforms

What Obama did: In the early days of the George W. Bush administration, The Wilderness Society’s Nada Culver says, you had to visit BLM field offices in person to keep tabs on oil and gas lease sales. Coordinates for parcels up for auction were posted, but you had to map them yourself and protest within a short window. As public-land drilling intensified, encroaching on places like Dinosaur National Monument, environmentalists protested more and filed more lawsuits. The result, says Culver, frustrated everyone: Environmentalists felt that the BLM put too little thought into leasing, and some offices became burdened with multi-year backlogs, a burden for industry.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar sought to break the gridlock by increasing public participation and including more upfront planning. Public comment periods now precede lease sales, and the BLM is starting to give citizens more insight into its thinking before it drafts management plans. Master leasing plans, which try to resolve conflicts between industry and others ahead of leasing, are another product of Salazar’s reforms.

Trump’s take: We don’t know. Trump has promised to “lift restrictions” on energy development on public lands, but the Western Energy Alliance says it’s hard to know exactly what that means. Litigation still bogs down leasing and protests continue, Sgamma says, pointing to a WildEarth Guardians lawsuit challenging all leases sold in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming since the start of 2015. She hopes for changes that speed up leasing and permitting.

Trump’s options: The reforms were created through memoranda issued by Salazar, and they could be changed in the same fashion. But whether the new administration will do so is anyone’s guess. Culver notes that the reforms have been incorporated into BLM’s management handbooks, and that reducing public involvement could be politically tricky. “It’s going to be hard to say, ‘Never mind; don’t pay attention to that man behind the curtain making all of the oil and gas decisions.’” Culver contends that there aren’t that many restrictions on development anyway; the market is the primary limiting factor.

Nichols expects some change: “I think we will see Interior move to limit BLM’s discretion to reject leases,” he says.


Waters of the U.S. Rule

What Obama did: This supremely wonky rule allows the feds to regulate pollution in small and intermittent wetlands and streams under the Clean Water Act.

Trump’s take: Trump has promised to eliminate what he calls a “highly invasive” rule, opposed by energy companies, agriculture groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many Republicans, who say it represents an egregious expansion of federal regulatory power.

Trump’s options: Since the rule is currently tied up in court, Trump could let the legal system decide its fate. It’s likely to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which may soon tilt in the GOP’s favor. He could also ask the court to send the rule back to the EPA for revision. However, that process would be open to public comment and ultimately to more litigation.


Offshore Oil Leasing

What Obama did: On Nov. 19, the Obama administration finalized its five-year plan for offshore oil leasing, which determines where leases will be offered through 2022. It canceled proposed lease sales in the Arctic Ocean and put the Atlantic and Pacific coasts off-limits to new leasing.

Trump’s take: We don’t know, but industry groups and Alaska Republicans aren’t happy, and an “infuriated” Sen. Lisa Murkowski has promised to fight the decision.

Trump’s options: The new administration could write a new plan, but probably not quickly. Obama’s plan was developed over two years, and industry interest in Arctic drilling has cooled amid low oil prices. Shell abandoned its exploratory efforts in the Chukchi Sea in 2015, citing disappointing results.

Cally Carswell is a contributing editor for High Country News, where this story first appeared.

Published in Environment

On this week's reindeer-infused weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World observes as President-elect Trump travels back in time to meet the Founding Fathers; Jen Sorenson examines social-justice movements through history; The K Chronicles engages in a protest; and Red Meat makes a holiday mistake.

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I wish were using this space to discuss the results of the third annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll—and explain how we received an all-time-high number of votes, and gush about how proud I am that our list of winners and finalists represents all parts of the valley.

I wish I were using this space to discuss the inaugural Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week—and tell you all about how the week was an amazing success that featured amazing cocktails, lots of fun and thousands of dollars going to two amazing charities.

However, I feel compelled to instead discuss the president-elect of the United States.

Barring something freaky coming out of the proposed recounts and challenges, and despite the popular-vote results, it’s undeniable: Donald Trump won, fair and square. He deserves significant credit for confounding the experts and the establishment, and for tapping into and exploiting the serious concerns and pain being felt by many people across this great country.

However, that does not mean that his behavior during the campaign can or should be forgotten or forgiven.

Just like it’s undeniable that Trump won, fair and square, it’s also undeniable that he said and did some despicable things on his way to that win. He mocked the disabled. He demeaned women. He threatened the rights of LGBT individuals. He said things about Mexicans, Muslims and African Americans that were flat-out racist. He demonized the media. And by doing all of these awful things, he sent a message to racists, sexists and other haters across the country that it’s OK to feel and act that way.

As a small-business owner, I am petrified about what Trump could do to the economy. As a caring human, I am fearful of what he, his surrogates and his fans could do to Muslims, women, refugees and anyone else who is not a straight white man. As a reporter and journalist, I am downright pissed about the crap he’s said about the media—specifically newspapers that have exposed his lies, his deception and his wrongdoing.

However, I am not just petrified, fearful and pissed off. I am also motivated.

Since we published our first articles online more than four years ago, the mission statement of the Coachella Valley Independent has included this statement: We believe in true, honest journalism: We want to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted.

We and the rest of the country’s alternative media are on alert. We realize that our work is more important than ever. We’re watching.

By the way, pick up the December 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets all across the valley this week. As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Editor's Note

On this week's eggnog-craving weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson offers scenes from Standing Rock; The K Chronicles lives in the House of Sick; This Modern World examines the great political divide; and Red Meat enjoys a new exercise routine.

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If President-elect Donald Trump actually believes all the warnings he issued during the election about the threats of immigration, he should be talking about ways to slow global warming as well.

Rising sea levels, caused by the melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps, will probably displace tens of millions of people in the decades ahead, and many may come to North America as refugees.

Climate change will cause a suite of other problems for future generations to tackle—and it’s arguably the most pressing issue of our time.

A year ago in December, world leaders gathered in Paris to discuss strategies for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and scientists at every corner of the globe confirm that humans are facing a crisis. However, climate change is being basically ignored by American politicians and lawmakers. It was not discussed in depth at all during this past election cycle’s televised presidential debates—and when climate change does break the surface of public discussion, it polarizes Americans like almost no other political issue.

Some conservatives, including President-elect Trump, still deny there’s even a problem.

“We are in this bizarre political state in which most of the Republican Party still thinks it has to pretend that climate change is not real,” said Jonathan F.P. Rose, a New York City developer and author of The Well-Tempered City, which explores in part how low-cost green development can mitigate the impacts of rising global temperatures and changing weather patterns.

Rose says progress cannot be made in drafting effective climate strategies until national leaders agree there’s an issue.

“We have such strong scientific evidence,” he said. “We can disagree on how we’re going to solve the problems, but I would hope we could move toward an agreement on the basic facts.”

That such a serious planetwide crisis has become a divide across the American political battlefield “is a tragedy” to Peter Kalmus, an earth scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech in Pasadena, who agreed to be interviewed for this story on his own behalf (in other words, not on behalf of NASA, JPL or Caltech). Kalmus warns that climate change is happening whether politicians want to talk about it or not.

“CO2 molecules and infrared photons don’t give a crap about politics, whether you’re liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat or anything else,” Kalmus said.

Slowing climate change will be essential, since adapting to all its impacts may be impossible. Governments must strive for greater resource efficiency, shift to renewable energy and transition from conventional to more sustainable agricultural practices.

America’s leaders must also implement a carbon-pricing system, climate activists say, that places a financial burden on fossil-fuel producers and reduces greenhouse-gas emissions. But there may be little to zero hope that such a system will be installed at the federal level as Trump prepares to move into the White House. Trump has actually threatened to reverse any commitments the United States agreed to in Paris. According to widely circulating reports, Trump has even selected a well-known skeptic of climate change, Myron Ebell, to head his U.S. Environmental Protection Agency transition team. Ebell is the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Steve Valk, communications director for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, says the results of the presidential election come as a discouraging setback in the campaign to slow emissions and global warming.

“There’s no doubt that the steep hill we’ve been climbing just became a sheer cliff,” he said. “But cliffs are scalable.”

Valk says the American public must demand that Congress implement carbon pricing. He says the government is not likely to face and attack climate change unless voters force them to.

“The solution is going to have to come from the people,” he said. “Our politicians have shown that they’re just not ready to implement a solution on their own.”


After Paris

There is no question the Earth is warming rapidly, and already, this upward temperature trend is having impacts.

It is disrupting agriculture. Glacial water sources are vanishing. Storms and droughts are becoming more severe. Altered winds and ocean currents are impacting marine ecosystems. So is ocean acidification, another outcome of carbon dioxide emissions. The sea is rising and eventually will swamp large coastal regions and islands. As many as 200 million people could be displaced by 2050. For several years in a row now, each year has been warmer than any year prior in recorded temperature records, and by 2100, it may be too hot for people to permanently live in the Persian Gulf.

World leaders and climate activists made groundbreaking progress toward slowing these effects at the Paris climate conference. Leaders from 195 countries drafted a plan of action to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions and steer the planet off its predicted course of warming. The pact, which addresses energy, transportation, industries and agriculture— and which asks leaders to regularly upgrade their climate policies—is intended to keep the planet from warming by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit between pre-industrial years and the end of this century. Scientists have forecasted that an average global increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit will have devastating consequences for humanity.

The United States pledged to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 26 percent from 2005 levels within a decade. China, Japan and nations of the European Union made similar promises. More recently, almost 200 nations agreed to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, extremely potent but short-lived greenhouse gases emitted by refrigerators and air conditioners, and reduce the emissions from the shipping and aviation industries.

But in the wake of such promising international progress—and as 2016 draws to a close as the third record warm year in a row—many climate activists are disconcerted both by United States leaders’ recent silence on the issue and by the outcome of the presidential election. Mark Sabbatini, editor of the newspaper Icepeople in Svalbard, Norway, believes shortsighted political scheming has pushed climate change action to the back burner. He wants to see politicians start listening to scientists.

“But industry folks donate money, and scientists get shoved aside in the interest of profits and re-election,” said Sabbatini, who recently had to evacuate his apartment as unprecedented temperatures thawed out the entire region’s permafrost, threatening to collapse buildings.

Short-term goals and immediate financial concerns distract leaders from making meaningful policy advances on climate.

“In Congress, they look two years ahead,” Sabbatini said. “In the Senate, they look six years ahead. In the White House, they look four years ahead.”

The 300 nationwide chapters of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby are calling on local governments and chambers of commerce across America to voice support for a revenue-neutral carbon fee. The hope is that leaders in Congress will hear the demands of the people. This carbon fee would impose a charge on producers of oil, natural gas and coal. As a direct result, all products and services that depend on or directly utilize those fossil fuels would cost more for consumers, who would be incentivized to buy less. Food shipped in from far away would cost more than locally grown alternatives. Gas for heating, electricity generated by oil and coal, and driving a car would become more expensive.

“Bicycling would become more attractive, and so would electric cars and home appliances that use less energy,” said Kalmus, an advocate of the revenue-neutral carbon fee.

Promoting this fee system is essentially the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s entire focus.

“This would be the most important step we take toward addressing climate change,” Valk said.

In the carbon fee system, the revenue from fossil-fuel producers would be evenly distributed by the collecting agencies among the public, perhaps via a tax credit. Recycling the dividends back into society would make it a fair system, Valk explains, since poorer people, who tend to use less energy than wealthier people to begin with and are therefore less to blame for climate change, would come out ahead.

The system would also place a tariff on incoming goods from nations without a carbon fee. This would keep American industries from moving overseas and maybe even prompt other nations to set their own price on carbon.

But there’s a problem with the revenue-neutral carbon fee, according to other climate activists: It doesn’t support social programs that may be aimed at reducing society’s carbon footprint.

“It will put no money into programs that serve disadvantaged communities who, for example, might not be able to afford weatherizing their home and lowering their energy bill, or afford an electric vehicle or a solar panel,” said Renata Brillinger, executive director of the California Climate and Agriculture Network. “It doesn’t give anything to public schools for making the buildings more energy efficient, and it wouldn’t give any money to farmers’ incentive programs for soil building.”

Brillinger’s organization is advocating for farmers to adopt practices that actively draw carbon out of the atmosphere, like planting trees and maintaining ground cover to prevent erosion. Funding, she says, is needed to support such farmers, who may go through transitional periods of reduced yields and increased costs. California’s cap-and-trade system sets up an ample revenue stream for this purpose that a revenue-neutral system does not, according to Brillinger.

But Valk says establishing a carbon pricing system must take into account the notorious reluctance of conservatives in Congress.

“You aren’t going to get a single Republican in Congress to support legislation unless it’s revenue-neutral,” he said. “Any policy is useless if you can’t pass it in Congress.”


Sequestering the Farm

In Washington, D.C., the nation’s leaders continue tussling over popular issues like immigration, taxes, healthcare, abortion, guns and foreign affairs.

Climate-change activists wish they would be thinking more about soil. That’s because stopping greenhouse gas emissions alone will not stop climate change. The carbon dioxide emitted through centuries of industrial activity will continue to drive warming unless it is removed from the air and put somewhere.

“There are only three places carbon can go,” Brillinger said. “It can go into the atmosphere, where we don’t want it; into the ocean, where we also don’t want it because it causes acidification; or into soil and woody plants, where we do want it. Carbon is the backbone of all forests and is a critical nutrient of soil.”

But most of the Earth’s soil carbon has been lost to the atmosphere, causing a spike in atmospheric carbon. In the 1700s, the Earth’s atmosphere contained less than 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide, according to scientists. Now, we are at more than 400 and counting. Climate experts generally agree that the atmospheric carbon level must be reduced to 350 or less if we are to keep at bay the most disastrous possible impacts of warming.

This is why farmers and the soil they work will be so important in mitigating climate change. By employing certain practices and abandoning other ones, farmers and ranchers can turn acreage into valuable carbon sinks—a general agricultural approach often referred to as “carbon farming.”

Conventional agriculture practices tend to emit carbon dioxide. Regular tilling of the soil, for example, causes soil carbon to bond with oxygen and float away as carbon dioxide. Tilling also causes erosion, as do deforestation and overgrazing. With erosion, soil carbon enters waterways, creating carbonic acid—the direct culprit of ocean acidification. Researchers have estimated that unsustainable farming practices have caused as much as 80 percent of the world’s soil carbon to turn into carbon dioxide.

By carbon farming, those who produce the world’s food can simultaneously turn their land into precious carbon sinks. The basic tenets of carbon farming include growing trees as windbreaks and focusing on perennial crops, like fruit trees and certain specialty grain varieties, which demand less tilling and disturbance of the soil.

Eric Toensmeier, a senior fellow with the climate advocacy group Project Drawdown and the author of The Carbon Farming Solution, says many other countries are far ahead of the United States in both recognizing the importance of soil as a place to store carbon and funding programs that help conventional farmers shift toward carbon-farming practices. France, for instance, initiated a sophisticated program in 2011 that calls for increasing soil carbon worldwide by 0.4 percent every year. Healthy soil can contain 10 percent carbon or more, and France’s program has the potential over time to decelerate the increase in atmospheric carbon levels.

Toensmeier is optimistic about the progress being made in the United States, too. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds programs that support environmentally friendly farming practices that protect watersheds or enhance wildlife habitat, largely through planting perennial grasses and trees.

“And it turns out a lot of the practices they’re paying farmers to do to protect water quality or slow erosion also happen to sequester carbon,” Toensmeier said.

He says it appears obvious that the federal government is establishing a system by which they will eventually pay farmers directly to sequester carbon. Such a direct faceoff with climate change, however, may be a few years away.

Climate activists may even need to wait until 2021.

“First, we need a president who acknowledges that climate change exists,” Toensmeier said.


National Politics and City Reform

Climate-reform advocates still talk about Bernie Sanders’ fiery attack on fracking as a source of global warming in the May primary debate with Hillary Clinton.

“If we don’t get our act together, this planet could be 5 to 10 degrees warmer by the end of this century,” Sanders said then. “Cataclysmic problems for this planet. This is a national crisis.”

Sanders was not exaggerating. The Earth has already warmed by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, and it’s getting hotter. Even with the advances made in Paris, the world remains on track to be 6.1 degrees Fahrenheit warmer by 2100 than it was in pre-industrial times, according to a United Nations emissions report released in early November. The authors of another paper published in January in the journal Nature predicted temperatures will rise as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

In light of the scientific consensus, conservatives’ denial of climate change looks childish at best, and dangerous at worst. In low-lying Florida, so vulnerable to the rising sea, an unofficial policy from its Republican leadership has effectively muzzled state employees from even mentioning “climate change” and “global warming” in official reports and communications. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz suggested NASA focus its research less on climate change and more on space exploration, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

Most frightening of all, perhaps, is the incoming American president’s stance on the matter: Trump said in a 2012 tweet that global warming is a Chinese hoax. In January 2014, during a brief spell of cold weather, he asked via Twitter, “Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?”

While most of the rest of the world remains poised to advance emissions reductions goals, Trump is aiming in a different direction. The Trump-Pence website vows to “unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.” His webpage concerning energy goals only mentions reducing emissions once, and it makes no mention of climate change or renewable energy.

While meaningful action at the federal level is probably years away, at the local level, progress is coming—even in communities led by Republicans, according to Rose. That, he says, is because local politicians face a level of accountability from which national leaders are often shielded.

“At the city level, mayors have to deliver real results,” Rose said. “They have to protect their residents and make wise investments on behalf of their residents. The residents see what they’re doing and hold them accountable.”

Restructuring and modifying our cities, which are responsible for about half of America’s carbon footprint, “will be critical toward dealing with climate change,” Rose said.

“On the coast, we’ll have sea-level rise,” he said. “Inland, we’ll have flooding and heat waves. Heat waves cause more deaths than hurricanes.”

Simply integrating nature into city infrastructure is a very low-cost but effective means for countering the changes that are coming, Rose says. Many cities, for example, are planting thousands of street trees. Trees draw in atmospheric carbon as they grow and, through shade and evaporative cooling effects, can significantly reduce surface temperatures by as much as 6 degrees Fahrenheit in some circumstances, Rose says.

Laws and policies that take aim at reduced emissions targets can be very efficient tools for generating change across entire communities. However, Kalmus believes it’s important that individuals, too, reduce their own emissions through voluntary behavior changes, rather than simply waiting for change to come from leaders and lawmakers.

“If you care about climate change, it will make you happier,” he said. “It makes you feel like you’re pioneering a new way to live. For others, you’re the person who is showing the path and making them realize it’s not as crazy as it seems.”

Kalmus, who lives in Altadena, Calif., with his wife and two sons, has radically overhauled his lifestyle to reduce his carbon footprint. Since 2010, he has cut his own emissions by a factor of 10—from 20 tons per year to just 2, by his own estimates. This personal transformation is the subject of his forthcoming book, Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, due out in 2017.

Kalmus rides a bike most places, eats mostly locally grown food, raises some food in his own yard, has stopped eating meat, and—one of the most important changes—has all but quit flying places.

He hopes to serve as a model and help spark a transition to an economy that does not depend on constant growth, as ours currently does. One day, he believes, it will be socially unacceptable to burn fossil fuel, just as it’s become shunned to waste water in drought-dried California. The oil industry will eventually become obsolete.

“We need to transition to an economy that doesn’t depend on unending growth,” Kalmus said.

Unless we slow our carbon emissions and our population growth now, depletion of resources, he warns, will catch up with us.

“We need to shift to a steady-state economy and a steady-state population,” he said. “Fossil-fueled civilization cannot continue forever.”

Though Americans will soon have as president a man who is essentially advocating for climate change, Valk, at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, expects time—and warming—to shift voter perspectives.

“As more and more people are personally affected by climate change, like those recently flooded out in Louisiana and North Carolina, people of all political persuasions will see that acting on climate change is not a matter of partisan preferences, but a matter of survival,” he said.

See also:

California’s Disappearing Dream: How Climate Change and a Booming Population Continue to Shape Our Environmental Future

A Call to Action: Six Things Leaders Must Prioritize To Address Climate Change

Published in Environment

On this week's tumultously transitional weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat enjoys the holiday; Jen Sorenson examines unhelpful post-election declarations; The K Chronicles ponders what's next for the National Rifle Association; and This Modern World heads over a cliff.

Published in Comics

Whether your candidate for president won or lost, the good news is that the election is over.

Pundits will dig into every nuance of why someone lost or how someone won, but none of that will change where we are now. The system is what it is, and it works how it works. As important as it is to be a “good loser,” it’s even more of a show of character to be a “good winner.”

I tend to be a Pollyanna, someone of irrepressible optimism who thinks good things will always happen in the end. My philosophy includes taking every defeat—losing a job, losing a love or anything else—and figuring out what I need to learn so I won’t repeat it; each learning opportunity is meant to get me ready for an even better experience to come.

Yet I can be blindsided and feel like I took a stiff punch to the gut. That’s how I woke up the morning after the election: stunned, numb and overwhelmingly sad. I admit I cried myself to sleep, exhausted by my profound disappointment that a woman would not be president. At least not yet.

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross defined what are known as the five stages of grief: denial (“This can’t be happening!); anger (“Let’s take to the streets!”); bargaining (”Maybe we can get some things done that will be productive.”); depression (“I just don’t care. I’m done getting involved.”); and, finally, acceptance (“We can make it through this. It’s going to turn out all right.”).

While consoling friends devastated by the election who thought all hope was gone and trying to get them to the fifth stage, I began hearing how some people on the winning side were responding to the election: painting hateful racist and anti-Semitic sentiments on buildings, pulling off women’s hijabs on the street, and telling Hispanic-American students that they should leave the country—their country. I was devastated by a 10-year-old Muslim-American boy who just wanted to know, “Why do they hate me?”

All of this hit frighteningly close to home when a dear friend, Ellie, a Hillary supporter, called to say her home in the San Diego area had been defaced, with the word “ASSHOLE” scratched into her garage door.

“I had no campaign signs, and I don’t even remember talking politics with any of my neighbors,” she told me. “I have no idea who did it. I’m scared.”

The Southern Policy Law Center, which tracks hate crimes, received more than 200 complaints within the week after the election. Time magazine reported that anti-Muslim incidents were more prevalent than after Sept. 11, 2001.

Many people watching demonstrators on TV—including the hundreds who showed up in Palm Springs—or hearing about incidents of hatred and violence may feel helpless. Regardless of who they supported, they want to find a way to reassure fellow citizens that they need not be afraid. But they’re not sure what to do.

Some will begin to politically organize for the next go-round; some will write letters or op-ed columns; some will volunteer to support special-interest organizations; some will find other ways to channel their disappointment into having some positive impact.

I discovered the safety-pin campaign.

After the shocking Brexit vote in Great Britain to leave the European Union—a vote which followed a campaign with racist and anti-immigrant undertones not unlike those during the U.S. presidential-election campaign—similar acts of overt discrimination were reported throughout the British isles. Regardless of how individuals had voted—for Brexit or against—many wanted some way to show their vote was not meant as being against any group of people.

Last June, individuals in Britain came up with the idea of wearing a safety pin as a way for people to quietly and unobtrusively signal that they were a “safe ally”—someone OK to sit next to on the bus, or to ask directions, or to make eye contact with on the street.

Not everyone is an activist, or able to speak publicly, or able to take time off from work, child-rearing or caretaking—and wearing a safety pin is a small way to say “I care.” It’s a way to show you believe we are all entitled to respect, regardless of our political differences. It’s a way of saying, “Hatred and violence is NOT what I voted for.”

In the Colorado Springs Gazette, a woman named Jacquie Ostrom said: “I’m wearing (a safety pin) because I believe in acceptance of all people—all colors, all faiths, all sexual orientation. It’s important … to know that we stand together.”

If wearing a safety pin is still too much of a public statement, there are other ways to get to that fifth stage. My niece, Karen, has connected to a group on Facebook that started with the idea, “What if I committed to one act of justice every day?” This approach is dedicated to making the world a better place one day at a time, and encourages peaceful acts meant to show respect for differences among us.

“I’m committing to do something positive and good for someone else every day,” said Karen. “And I’m committing to educate myself and others so I can better understand issues next time around.”  

Another—somewhat more ironic—approach is to make a donation to an organization that will probably face challenges during the next administration, but doing it in the name of someone else. For example, imagine how your Uncle Joe, a staunch Trump supporter, may feel when he gets a “Thank you!” from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, or the Southern Poverty Law Center, or Planned Parenthood.

I’ve often said that in evolutionary terms, we’re barely out of the slime as a species. As each new generation takes over, we move ever-so-slowly but inexorably forward. I continue to believe it’s going to be all right. But then, I’m a Pollyanna.

I’m wearing a safety pin.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays at noon on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

On the day after Election Day, the biggest newspaper in the oil and gas patch in northwestern New Mexico ran a story headlined: “Trump win has energy industry leaders hopeful.”

Most of the local industry folks quoted by the Farmington Daily Times said that President-elect Donald Trump would relax regulations on drilling on public land. Meanwhile, over on Facebook, energy workers were ecstatic, convinced that a President Trump would put them back to work almost immediately.

They should know better.

The San Juan Basin’s energy-reliant communities have been hit especially hard in recent years. The first blow came in 2008, after horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing opened up huge shale formations in the East.

Shortly thereafter, oil prices skyrocketed to as high as $150 per barrel, prompting drill rigs to pop up again all over North Dakota’s Bakken formation and, a little later, in the San Juan Basin’s Gallup shale. The fossil fuel mojo was back … until it wasn’t. As global supply increased faster than demand, prices started dropping, and OPEC declined to cut production. In 2014, prices crashed, and the oil boom was busted.

It’s a simple equation: When demand outpaces supply, prices increase. When prices get high enough to make drilling profitable, companies invest in development and put people to work. When all that drilling increases supply, prices crash, as do the drill rigs. Today, oil prices are stubbornly stuck below $50 per barrel.

Just one rig is working in the San Juan Basin, and the vast equipment yards in Farmington and Aztec, N.M., are crammed full of idle rigs. Thousands of workers have lost their jobs.

President-elect Trump promised to “lift restrictions on … energy reserves” and to dismantle environmental regulations. But will the drill rigs go back up as a result? No. Will laid-off energy workers get their jobs back? No. Regulations have nothing to do with this bust. Commodity booms and busts are driven by supply and demand, not regulations.

The only way to kick-start the faltering industry would be to increase oil and natural gas prices. And the only way to do that is to curtail supply or increase demand—no easy task with a global commodity.

Natural gas supply and demand, and therefore prices, would be somewhat easier to manipulate, since the commodity is regional, not global, meaning we export and import very little of the stuff. A president could boost demand by subsidizing a nationwide fleet of natural gas-burning long-haul trucks, which might make gas drillers happy, but not the oil drillers (since it would displace gasoline-burning trucks). He could ram through liquefied natural gas export-terminal permits, opening up foreign markets to domestic natural gas. If foreign demand was high enough, that might do the trick, but Trump’s promise to kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership would damage, not help, efforts to sell natural gas overseas.

A president could regulate power plant emissions in such a way that encourages utilities to replace coal with natural gas in the electricity generation mix. Oh, wait, that one’s already in the works. It’s called the Clean Power Plan, which Trump has pledged to repeal.

The San Juan Basin is also coal country, so at least the workers at the mines and two massive power plants will get to go back to work, right? Wrong. Coal-burning units at both plants have been shut down. The curtailments came from settlements with the Environmental Protection Agency over Clean Air Act violations, and because California didn’t want to buy coal power anymore. Killing the Clean Power Plan—even eliminating the EPA—won’t restore these plants to their former smog-spewing, coal-burning glory.

While the environment and the people who live near the rigs are getting a break during this bust, the economic pain in the oil patch these days is real, and deep. Individuals who just a few years ago were raking in $80,000 or more per year are struggling to hang on. City, county and state governments have watched revenues plummet. It’s the sort of malaise that breeds resentment and that spurs people to vote for the likes of Trump.

It is maddening and tragic to see these people put so much hope in one person, particularly when that person is clearly so unequipped to deliver on his promises, and so likely, in the long run, to make their lives more miserable by removing what few social safety nets exist.

What will they do after Trump has finished rolling back all the regulations, dismantling the rules that keep us safe and our environment healthy—and they still don’t have a job? Who will they blame then?

Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News, where this piece first appeared.

Published in Community Voices