While the president remains timid in defense of climate science and the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2”), one of his former employees understands both the importance of the issue and the need for rhetoric to match the urgency.
I’m talking about climate hawk Van Jones. After the Stewart/Colbert rally, he spoke bluntly about where progressive are, how we got here, and what we need to do. Alternet has the story:
“Now, here’s our problem,” he says. “Most of the people who are in this room have given away, over the past two years, almost all of our power. The reason the country is in the shape that it’s in is not just because bad people created a hate machine; it’s that good people shut down the hope machine.”
… Perhaps no one in the progressive movement can ignite the passions of his listeners like Van Jones….
“The politics of hope and change in this country did not start in Iowa in 2008,” Jones tells the faithful. “The politics of hope and change started in 2003, when we didn’t have a superhero; we didn’t have a messiah, we didn’t have a lot of organization, we didn’t have a bunch of money. What we had was one-party rule here in D.C., and an unjust, unlawful war about to start — and each other. And with no superhero, and no messiah, you and me and people that we know took to the streets. And in six weeks, we organized more people against that war in Iraq than were organized against the Viet Nam war in six years. We did that. You did that.”
… “So, if there’s an inspiration deficit, or an inspiration gap in America, don’t look to him,” Jones says, “let’s look back to ourselves.”
In the coming session of Congress, Jones tells his audience, there are two major battles he sees as critical to both the progressive movement and the well-being of all Americans: the fight to maintain social programs and the struggle to save the Environmental Protection Agency from a promised assault by the Republicans who now rule the House.
“Both parties are likely to unite on the question of shoving an austerity program down the throats of the American people as a way to reduce the fiscal deficit,” Jones says. “Both parties are likely to say we’re gonna cut back on benefits for people who need help.”
… The second big battle, Jones says, is for nothing less than the fate of the planet — which is how he sees the assault on the EPA promised by the GOP.
At present, Jones says, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has powers granted her under the Clean Air Act, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, “to start dealing with greenhouse gases, whether Congress likes it or not.” Having thwarted climate change legislation in the last session of Congress, Jones says, Republicans will next attempt to “change the rules to strip that authority away from her.”
Indeed, a number of Tea Party candidates ran on platforms that include defunding the EPA. “An attack on Lisa Jackson is an attack on the entire progressive movement,” Jones says, “and we’ve got to let them know that right away.”
“That fight is going to be the most important fight for the environment on Planet Earth next year,” Jones says. “If we allow the authority that she already has to be taken away, the planet may be greenhouse-gas attacked.”
The piece has more of his remarks, which are well worth reading, but I’ll leave you with this:
You have good days, bad days — you’re up and down, you know? And in politics, when you do change, you have good years and bad years; you have ups, you have downs. But the one thing you know is, if you fall all the way back to despair, then no change is possible. But if you can just stick with the hope in the tough times, then all change is still possible. And that’s where we are.