Joe Biden campaign Election 2020

Election 2020, our environment, and you

We want to hear what this election means for you

BOZEMAN, Mont.—"It's sad to win and be this depressed."


I was talking to a cousin in deep-blue Washington, D.C. But living in a state that went from purple to crimson Tuesday, I had to ruefully smile: Who won in this election? Who lost?

Four years ago, as the nation awoke to the first shock and reckoning of a Trump presidency, I was on a cross-country flight, blissfully unplugged. Looking out at our country from my window seat, I watched all that hand-wringing disappear against truly tectonic forces shaping our landscape. I was blessed with literally a 30,000-foot view.

I thought then that progressives had failed to build the coalitions necessary for broad support of clean energy, a healthier climate, environmental justice. That Democrats had left large portions of the population behind. To move forward on clean water, low-carbon energy, environmental and racial justice, we needed to go back and get them. To do the hard work of bringing everyone together.

Donald Trump of course spent four years doing nothing of the sort. But to be fair, the Democrats didn't really do so, either. And so we find ourselves, in many ways, in the same space four years later: Riven, mistrustful, divided – deeply so.


What does this election mean for you? Send us a few sentences and we'll publish a compilation later in the month: feedback@ehsciences.org. We'd love to hear your story.

'Victories are rarely easy'

Biden question election 2020

Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

Four years ago I turned to newsman Dan Rather for solace and insight. He's still in my head and my Facebook feed, a veteran of 18 presidential campaigns – 72 years.

"I don't minimize the challenges we are facing," he wrote Wednesday morning. "The struggle for justice and the truth seems more difficult than many had hoped."

"I know many are tired, disappointed, and in disbelief. Many wonder what their country truly is and where it might go. All of these are natural reactions to where America is today. But I have seen over the course of my lifetime that victories are rarely easy and the struggle for healing and hope takes time and perseverance, because the forces of hate and lies are always easier to summon."

Once proudly bipartisan

As President-elect Biden looks toward governing, he'll face largely the same Senate as his former boss, Barack Obama. The Green New Deal envisioned by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. will never get through that door. Would that be so bad? Should we be so glum about a Biden Administration forced to seek compromise and bipartisanship?

Then I look at the election results in my beloved, once proudly bipartisan Montana. Until Tuesday this state had never – not in my lifetime, not in my parent's lifetime, not in my grandparent's – approved a straight Republican ticket for every statewide office: President, U.S. senator, U.S. representative, governor, attorney general, auditor, education secretary.

Even the Public Service Commission, the obscure body regulating our utilities – and that decides whether our state will keep producing coal-fired power or tap the abundant wind blowing over eastern Montana – is all Republican.

Sunlight helps

Driving past endless fields of wheat stubble in Central Montana on Thursday, listening to talk radio, my wife reported hearing little but all-caps cries of FAKE NEWS, FAKE VOTES, STOLEN ELECTION. The lines are etched much harder into our political landscape.

I don't see any mood for compromise.

So the job for me, as head of an organization that works to bring good science into public discussion on our health and environment, is clear: We will investigate and challenge. We will continue to bring to light science that makes sense of our world and makes us healthier.

I'm not naive to think a few stories or studies will get us out of this tangled mess. But sunlight helps.

The 30,000-foot perspective

And so I turn back to Dan Rather and his 30,000-foot view, a perspective that takes in World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1960s Civil Rights fights.

"This nation will have to find a way to heal, no matter how improbable that seems today," he said. "Healing doesn't mean forfeiting one's values. It does not mean watering down the structural, policy, and cultural changes we will have to make. But it does mean not losing a sense of one's humanity, humility, and empathy."

That is the task for all of us today.

Editor's note: What does this election mean for you? Write to us, and we'll publish a compilation later in the month: feedback@ehsciences.org. We'd love to hear your story.

climate change drives bc watershed plans

Climate change drives BC’s push for new watershed plans

The government wants the public to weigh in on the future of water. Critics wonder if the plan will go far enough.
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Climate change fueled $329 bln in 2021 economic losses

Climate change fueled $329 bln in 2021 economic losses, 3rd costliest year ever

The world racked up $329 billion in economic losses linked to severe weather last year, and only 38% of that bill was covered by insurance, Aon says.

Environmental law explained: How to stop climate change using the law

Gluing yourself to the road is one way to protest environmental collapse. Suing fossil fuel companies is another.
climate civil disobedience
Photo by Ma Ti on Unsplash

Interest in civil disobedience has reached a mini climate tipping point

As each hellish new natural disaster is matched by an equally hellish political stalemate on climate legislation, a growing segment of the American population is thinking: What can I personally do to get some climate action going here?

climate media action Justin McBrien
Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash

Justin McBrien: Disaster flicks like ‘Don’t Look Up’ won’t spur climate change action. Here’s why

The climate crisis is very different from an errant asteroid. Stopping it demands far more than listening to scientists and trusting their technical solutions.

Judges appear skeptical of Big Oil's climate claims
Photo by Robert Linder on Unsplash

Judges appear skeptical of Big Oil's climate claims

A panel of judges appeared skeptical yesterday of giving federal courts exclusive rights to hear climate change cases against fossil fuel firms.

children climate books
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

New children’s book explains systemic nature of climate change

Most kids’ books about the environment encourage children to adopt Earth-friendly habits like taking shorter showers and recycling. But in a new release called “A Kids Book About Climate Change,” the authors focus on the bigger picture.

From our Newsroom
Africa cooking pollution

What do new cookstoves in Ghana and air conditioners in NYC have in common? Energy justice.

Combating energy poverty and energy insecurity are critical elements to achieving environmental health equity for billions worldwide.

dr. fauci

Peter Dykstra: Life imitates climate politics—again.

Personal, misinformed attacks on Dr. Fauci are reminiscent of climate spats over the decades.

Don't look up climate change

Hollywood’s third strike on climate change?

"Don't Look Up" is ambitious—but trips over its subject matter.

environmental news

5 popular reads from our newsroom in 2021

Check out what sparked readers' interest over the past year.

journalism

Our top 5 long reads of 2021

Check out must-read, in-depth reporting from the past year.

butterfly

Our top 5 good news stories of 2021

It's not all doom and gloom.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.