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Guest Editorial

The U.S. is losing the climate change war

We need to face the truth. In Park City, like everywhere in the world, we are losing the climate-change war. The Park Record’s November 18 article, “Environmentalists search for silver linings,” by David Hampshire, declared that Election Day was not a great day for environmentalists. To support his claim, Hampshire cited Donald Trump’s statements about canceling the Paris Climate Agreement and stopping payments of US tax dollars to UN global-warming programs.

Hampshire was right. It was a bad day. But, while we live in a reality where we lose between 150-200 species daily as reported by the UN Environment Programme, where we lose between 22 – 44 million trees daily as the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization reports, and where we lose 12,000 acres of land to desertification daily like the UN’s Convention to Combat Desertification reports, every day is a bad day.

Climate change has become too violent to ignore. And, with this latest defeat in the form of Trump’s election sparking outrage, many Park City residents are expressing concern. The question becomes: What are environmentalists going to do with this concern?

Hampshire, for his part, interviewed Park City Councilman Andy Beerman about what the city is doing to combat climate change. Beerman explained that six electric buses will be introduced to the city fleet, that a solar utility may be built for the community, and that Park City is partnering with Aspen, Colo., to speak with other ski towns about reducing their carbon footprints, too. Finally, Beerman said, “I think a lot of us are wondering what we can do, whether it’s hopeless. And what I will say is the government that affects you the most is local government. And where we can make a difference here and now.”

If Park City and Beerman’s solutions are the only solutions to climate change, then it is hopeless. Climate change is not a local problem, it is a global problem. Even if Park City achieved net-zero carbon emissions, winter will still be in danger as long as the rest of the world continues business as usual. If Park City is going to survive, we have to disrupt and dismantle the systems producing climate change on a global scale.

These disruptions are neither impossible, nor non-existent. The obvious example, right now, is the blockade of the Dakota Access Pipeline. But, there are many other primarily indigenous-led groups fighting around the world to stop the development of the infrastructure making climate change possible. These groups embody the truth that it’s too late to wait for governments to do the right thing. If we’re going to stop climate change, we’ll have to do it ourselves.

I recently moved to Park City after spending two years on the road supporting frontline groups engaged in direct confrontation with the forces destroying the world. I volunteered at the Unist’ot’en Camp on the unceded, traditional territories of the Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in so-called British Columbia. The Camp is currently holding off seven proposed pipelines from the Tar Sands Gigaproject and the Horn River Basin Fracturing Projects. In the process, the Camp keeps countless barrels of fossil fuels in the ground and does far more to protect Park City’s winters than Park City does.

I was never at the Camp with more than 100 people present. While Park City is spending millions of dollars on electric buses, encouraging individuals to drive less, and politely asking other ski towns to follow their example, 100 people with far fewer financial resources collectively than even the median household income in Park City are cutting the problem off at the source.

I hope that Park City residents are expressing more than an empty concern about climate change. I hope we are serious. To demonstrate this seriousness, we must find ways to materially support the dismantling of the forces producing climate change. This is our only hope.