Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The War on California

The election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States appears as nothing short of a corporate coup d’etat, threatening to overturn decades of public interest advocacy. Before even taking the office, president-elect Trump’s earlier remarks on climate change as a hoax and his opposition to the Paris accords have been cemented with cabinet-level appointments of individuals dedicated to a major expansion of fossil fuel production while discouraging clean-energy innovations. Before completing his first 100 days in office, President Trump advanced a budget to eliminate major programs relating to environmental protection, alternative energy, and climate change. As stories in this work will reveal, California law poses a formidable challenge to such reversals. Whether President Trump, the Republican Congress and the corporate lobby can dismantle decades of public interest work is a question filled with uncertainty.

At first glance, the threat to California appears uniquely linked to the election of an unorthodox political maverick versus a left coast state whose voters delivered a majority of the popular vote to his opponent. With opposition to a federal dragnet of millions of immigrants, the judicial defeat of efforts to seal the nationʻs borders from Muslims by a federal appellate court based in California, and popular demonstrations across the state the gulf between the Golden State and Washington, D.C. deepens with each passing day. The notion of a “War on California” is only an appropriate description of our times.

Beyond todayʻs noted headlines, the history surrounding the fossil-fueled crisis of the 21st century goes back many decades. If you speak with political veterans from inside Californiaʻs capitol, you may unearth fascinating accounts about the nature of our current problems as well as what the public must do to address these crises. You are also likely to encounter untold stories centering not on political celebrities, but on a much larger cast of characters - public interest advocates and activists. While their work is increasingly recognized across a growing coalition of group as well as inside the corridors of power, they are less well known by the general public for their valuable contributions to California more generally. 

One of the purposes of my forthcoming writing is to feature the works of some of Californiaʻs notable advocates and the work of their partners in not just turning back Donald Trumpʻs efforts to extend an era of fossil fueled hazards, but to note their impressively positive works to forge a new economy. Those featured in my forthcoming writings including: Martha Arguello with the Physicians for Social Responsibility - LA, Strela Cervas with the California Environmental Justice Alliance, Bill Magavern with the Coalition for Clean Air, Angela Johnson Meszaros with EarthJustice, Brent Newell with the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, Rossmery Zayas with Communities for a Better Environment, and many others. 

As a California legislator mentioned in a statement to the LA Times earlier this week, the public interest advocates are on the verge of playing a much greater role in the Golden State, perhaps influencing the course of policy for decades to come. We will soon begin a fuller examination of the role of Californiaʻs public interest lobby and their standing in a decadeʻs old fight to overcome oil, oligarchs and the new tyranny.

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