Author David Biello has an idea to get President Trump to take action on climate change.
“We should rename this current era the Trumpocene,” he says. “It’s pretty much the same as what we now call the Anthropocene, because it’s an old white dude ruining the world, but if we rename it he might actually pay attention to some of these challenges. When you put his name on something, he seems to care a lot more.”
Biello, formerly the environmental editor at Scientific American, knows a thing or two about the Anthropocene. His book about climate change, The Unnatural World: The Race to Remake Civilization in Earth’s Newest Age, came out last year just after the presidential election. Biello traveled the world to gather stories for the book, which examines both the history of our current environmental decline and the hard work of the people trying to reverse it.
Both the book and Biello himself are more optimistic than you might expect in this era of political strife, extinction and climate change. “One thing I would say about the despair versus hope conundrum is that hope is a place of inspiration and action,” he says. “Frankly, things can always get worse, so hope is always an option. Just taking the example of climate change or species extinction, if we can’t stop a temperature rise of one degree Celsius, we can still stop at 2 degrees Celsius. If we can’t save one species of rhino maybe we can save another species of rhino, or if we can’t save the rhinos at all maybe we can save the elephants. So there’s always room for hope.”
He says that’s an important message in today’s increasingly negative media environment. “Unfortunately, in my experience and from what I’ve seen in the world, despair just tends to have people throw up their hands and go eat a hamburger or whatever it might be because you really feel powerless to do anything.”
Interestingly enough, Biello feels that the despair many people feel from the current administration’s policies have actually become a motivating factor for positive change.
“Let’s be honest, if Hillary Clinton was president, folks would be a lot more sanguine about action on climate change, action to stave off species extinction, and action on social justice,” he says. “You name it, people would be a little bit more accepting of the status quo. So in a way, the election of Trump has served as a wake-up call that these things aren’t going to change on their own, that if we want to see them, if we want action on climate change, if we want to save our fellow travelers on this little blue orb in the vastness of space, we have to actually take action. We have to do things.”
That drive for action, Biello says, started happening almost immediately after the election. “People are more energized than at any point that I’ve directly experienced,” he says. “I’ve been reporting on climate change since the 1990s, and so folks have always been like, ‘yeah, yeah, we should do something about that,’ but without any sense of urgency. That has changed with the election. We saw a March for Science, which was an incredible thing. That, as far as I know, has never happened before, and people are getting involved in local politics.”
That, he adds, is the most important thing right now. “People are always asking me, what’s the number-one technology for solving climate change or the extinction crisis? They’re expecting me to say something like genetic engineering or artificial trees to suck CO2 out of the sky. But the number one thing to solve any of these kinds of interlocking problems of the Anthropocene is politics and the collective act of getting together and making some better decisions as a society.”
He continues, “We can’t go it alone. You as an individual are not going to buy your way to a better Anthropocene. You have to come together at the societal level to build this better world. I can’t do it alone, you can’t do it alone. Neither can anyone else. We have to come together in the hard but necessary work of politics to get these problems resolved and to build a better Trumpocene.”
Previously in The Revelator: