As a candidate, Donald Trump was clear: climate change, a hoax imagined by China, would not be a priority in his administration. As president, Trump has more than delivered. The big-business mogul nominated ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, oil-industry ally Rick Perry for Energy Secretary, and Scott Pruitt — an Attorney General from Oklahoma who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency a whopping 14 times — to head the EPA. Trump’s pick for Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, has a history of siding with corporations over environmental interests, and Trump has repeatedly criticized pro-climate policies as “harmful and unnecessary.”
With a stacked anti-climate cabinet, administration, Congress, and Supreme Court, environmentalist Bill McKibben says the battle for environmental awareness has to come —slowly but surely— from the states. “Massachusetts will play a big role,” McKibben said in an interview with Boston Public Radio Wednesday. “States are going to be increasingly important because nothing is going to happen in D.C., so there will be a lot of pressure that goes to the state level, and in some places, that will be very effective.”
President Trump’s environmental policies have faced plenty of criticism from local leaders including Attorney General Maura Healey, who finds herself embroiled in several lawsuits against the Trump administration and a contentious case against ExxonMobil.
“Maura Healey is really a hero,” McKibben said.
Gov. Charlie Baker has been criticized for his lack of resistance to federal approval of local pipeline plans, including a recent lackluster response regarding a controversial gas compressor. “It will be interesting to see if people like Charlie Baker really are willing to try to use their weight to try to stop the expansion of natural gas infrastructure across Massachusetts,” McKibben said. “These are questions, fights that are going to take a lot of work to get anywhere, because Washington is very powerful, but the states will be more important.”
Equally as important, McKibben argues, are the protests and activist movements stirring across the country. In addition to the Women’s March and several immigration protests, a recent national movement in defense of scientific facts sparked interest nationally and drew hundreds of protesters to Copley Square. “There are good signs — we’re seeing resistance across a broad front,” McKibben said. “We’re going to do everything we can to bring the heat of public opinion to bear here.”
“For the moment, the Republicans are in such total control of the arms of government that it won’t have an immediate effect, we can’t break their power right away,” McKibben said. “But we do need to marshall that resistance and hope that in two years, and in four years, and going forward, it pays off in real changes.”
Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, founder of the climate campaign 350.org and author, most recently, of Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist. To hear his full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio player above.