Michael Sales, one of the founding members of ECA Massachusetts, facilitated the April Deep Dialogue, an overview of the vast range of national climate initiatives in motion and the people in Washington DC who are moving these proposals forward. Special guest Anna Lenhart, Senior Legislative Assistant to U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan (of Massachusetts’ 3rd Congressional District), shared her perspectives, and Michael followed with an illustrated presentation.
You can access Michael’s slides here, and the video of his presentation and Q&A here. His introductory remarks at the beginning of the Deep Dialogue, and the discussion with Anna Lenhart, were not recorded. However, Michael has provided a condensed version of his introduction below:
In 1776, the great internationalist and one of America’s founders, Thomas Paine, said that “The times have found us.” He was referring to the fact that the signs were everywhere that the Old Order was not working for anybody who wanted to play an active role in creating the future. One might say that the imperial Past ran out of gas.
We’re in a similar situation today. The scientific consensus is that humanity has got nine years to start to get our response to climate change right.
As we all know, intelligent climate action experienced an unrelenting attack of denial and defunding during the Trump years. We went backwards when we should have been stepping up.
But now the situation is dramatically changed. The Biden White House and many members of the 117th Congress are backing climate action across a host of initiatives in DC. Climate activists are finally living in a supportive context nationally, and it’s making a huge difference to the nation’s executive and legislative agendas.
Our four years of backing Massachusetts’ 2050 Clean Energy Roadmap Bill has provided ECA Massachusetts with quite a learning experience in the legislative process. It’s complicated, it’s time consuming and it’s slow. Making policy change at the national level is like everything we went through with the Roadmap bill on steroids to the Nth degree.
Obviously, ECA Massachusetts is a small organization, and even ECA National is small potatoes when it comes to the name players engaged with Federal legislation. So, the likelihood that we’re going to ever exercise the sort of influence in DC that we were ultimately able to do over the last four years on Beacon Hill is remote.
However, what happens in the US Congress and at the White House has great significance for what will happen everywhere in America and probably the world as a whole.
The stakes are very high. There is absolutely no guarantee that America will not return to denial and Trumpism when it comes to climate change. If Trumpism gains control of even one chamber in Congress 2022, I think our rather slim chance of effectively dealing with the climate crisis will wither and die. As I see it, we’ve got 18 short months to prove that our democracy (and the world’s democracies in general) are up to the challenges presented by climate change. If we do not, autocratic regimes will be strengthened worldwide.
The slim majority Biden has in Congress makes dealing with the climate crisis fraught indeed. I believe that everyone in organizations like ECA needs to be at least somewhat informed on how DC works.
My objective now is simply to get us started in thinking about how we can begin to get our minds around what’s going on in Washington and consider what that means for the ECA Massachusetts chapter’s activism. My effort to understand and explore this climate landscape, which I’m hoping we’ll map together, is just beginning. Please contact me, Michael Sales, at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’d like to join me in this work.