“… democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Yesterday we elected candidates in local, state and federal races in every corner of our nation. These women and men soon will go to work making decisions that will affect the American people and our planet.
But civil democracy requires more of us than a trip to the polls each November. Voting is just the beginning—now, more than ever, we need to hold all of our politicians accountable using all of our resources as citizens.
We are disappointed that climate change was so absent from the national conversation during this election year. There is no excuse for near-total silence on our most urgent global priority, let alone complete denial by a large portion of the prevailing political party. We challenge those elected—as well as those already serving—to stop treating a changing climate as a political football and recognize it as a crisis that affects every constituency. Our planet is the foundation on which rests the American economy, our security and public health. And it’s suffering on our watch.
Despite our disappointment and concern, we want to share with you what fires us up this morning.
Patagonia is deeply committed to the support of grassroots activism as a means of pushing policy makers and government to act. Activism has never been more important than it is this morning. Defending our air, soil and water has never been more important than it is on this morning. As we seek opportunities to heal the nation and rise above the ugly campaign rhetoric, we must vow to make climate action a rallying cry to bring people together—something we desperately need. A changing climate affects Americans of every political stripe, in every part of the country. Hurricanes and asthma are not going to skip over one neighborhood and hit another based on politics. There is much more here that unites us than divides us.
With a confident voice and strong partnerships with businesses, climate activists and all levels of government, our elected leaders—starting with the President-Elect—can demonstrate all we stand to gain if we act urgently to protect our planet. And then go out and do it.
In response, American citizens—all of us—must be willing to undertake an engaged, serious consideration of the long-term costs of our current habits. Changing our biases and our behavior will be extremely challenging, but we must be open to creative solutions and remember we’re fighting for our children and the children of others.
If elected leaders feel hamstrung by short-term political risks of embracing climate action, they must confidently reframe the debate around the issues that voters raised most often during the campaign and press on. Anything else is cowardice and, we believe, malpractice. Good news—this is not so hard:
- The Economy: Climate action presents strong opportunities for economic growth if we accelerate a courageous shift to renewable energy and support our thriving recreation economy, which drives $646 billion in spending every year and supports 6.1 million direct jobs—many times the number of U.S. jobs supported by oil, gas and mineral extraction.
- Safety and Security: America’s military leaders have been clear: Climate change represents a major threat to our national security and must be addressed if we hope to keep Americans safe at home and abroad. It also exacerbates natural disasters: extreme weather—snow, drought, floods—is the new norm. In 2012, climate and weather disasters cost the American economy more than $100 billion.
- Public Health: More than 100 million Americans live where the air is often too polluted to breathe safely—and more than half of our streams and rivers are so polluted they’re not safe for drinking, swimming or fishing. Seven out of ten doctors say climate change is creating more health problems for their patients. If we improve the health of our air, water and soil, we will keep ourselves and our kids healthier, while reducing costs for individuals and families.
As citizens, let’s let the divisiveness go and rise to our better natures. Let’s come together and hold those we’ve elected accountable for action in the face of our environmental crisis. One of our heroes, the environmentalist Brock Evans, said the strategy must be: endless pressure, endlessly applied.
If our elected leaders fail to approach the environment and climate change as serious issues worthy of urgency and action, it will be a mistake. Activists will hold you accountable. We will grow and deepen our resolve to protect what we love. We will fight harder and smarter, and use every means at our disposal to carry on and prevail for the sake of the country and the planet and the wild places and creatures that need our voice.
We can and we must approach climate change and all complex challenges with reason and humility—and work together to protect our planet, our one and only home.