The State of the Forest Movement in the Era of Trump: Ideas for Strengthening Our Collective Work

In preparation for the upcoming Heartwood annual Forest Council, GJEP co-directors Orin Langelle and Anne Petermann wrote this statement on the need to regenerate the forest protection movement in the US, particularly in the shadow of a Trump Presidency.  The Heartwood Forest Council runs from May 26-29 and GJEP will join allies from Indigenous Environmental Network, Heartwood and others to discuss strategies for building this renewed movement.

 

By Orin Langelle and Anne Petermann

THE RESURGENCE IS COMING

Trump is waging a war on both communities and the environment. The forests of the U.S. are going to be hit hard at the hands of Trump and his ultra-right wing band of robber barons.

At the same time, the forest protection movement in this country has fragmented and communication amongst us has quieted since its height in the 1990s.

With this in mind, we have reached a critical moment for the movement for forest protection in the U.S.

These combinations of factors are leading many in the movement to begin conversations about regenerating and unifying forest protection efforts across North America. That is what we plan to discuss at a workshop at the 2017 Heartwood Forest Council in May.

It is time to rejuvenate this movement: bring in new energy, consolidate and coordinate existing campaigns and efforts and create a movement powerful enough to stop further devastation of these crucial ecosystems and begin the process of healing.

This will not be simple. Reality is tough and it is going to get tougher.

We are led to believe Trump and his thieving cronies are climate change deniers. Most are anything but. While they are portrayed as climate change deniers, in reality they do their best to build their fortunes while exacerbating the climate crisis. There is good money in climate change. The Trump people are businessmen and the U.S. is open for business like we have never seen before.

A partial quote from economist Milton Friedman, an advisor to Ronald Reagan and British PM Margaret Thatcher states, “There is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits…”

Take for example the current U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former Exxon CEO. CounterPunch’s editor Jeffrey St. Clair points out in a recent article, “…Rex Tillerson is not a climate change denier. He is something far more dangerous. Tillerson knows climate change is taking place.”  

St. Clair goes on to say, “The lesson Tillerson took [from questions answered by his secret squad of game changers]…was that climate change is a serious threat and no government has the will or even the means to confront it. Thus, the only responsible thing to do for the shareholders of Exxon was to push forward aggressively with exploration and development of new oil fields from Amazonia to Russia, before some other company captured the reserves. Internally this became known as the ‘end game’ scenario.”

Trump’s accomplices are willing to allow total destruction by an atmosphere gone lethal.  

The system most of us were taught to believe is broken, no matter who is at the helm. We must face facts that the system is in the hands of a few ultra-rich people who broker the Earth for profit. (In reality this has been going on for a long time but it easier to see now that the mask of deception has been unveiled.)

The emergence of Trump and his band of blatantly contemptible crooks, while posing a threat to forests, is also providing an opportunity for unified action and exponential growth of the forest protection movement.

Because of the Trump agenda, people who have been complacent for years are becoming active again, as is a new generation of activists who see their future literally going up in flames.

If the forest protection movement provides a powerful vision and opportunities for involvement, large numbers of people who care about forests are likely to become engaged. This is our challenge: to provide a cohesive and attractive movement dedicated to the protection of forests from the myriad threats they face.

There is no such thing as complacency any more. We must organize or let Trump’s agenda of hate and destruction run rampant. There have been galvanizing moments in U.S. history when injustice was so potent, so undeniable that people came out in droves to be part of the force for change. This is one of those moments.

But this movement cannot be reformist. Because the fact is, no matter who is appointed president, we are on a fast-track toward the edge of a cliff.

There is no political party that will do this for us. It is up to us. It is time to acknowledge that the system does not work and start talking about what we do next. Time to mobilize. Time to take action for real systemic change. Time to open our hearts to traditional Indigenous knowledge. Time to organize and unite with other diverse efforts in order to build and strengthen the global movement toward the fundamental, transformational, bottom up change necessary to achieve a sane future on Earth.

We all are the Resurgence.

Both long time activists, Orin Langelle is the Strategic Communications Director for Global Justice Ecology Project and Anne Petermann is the Executive Director of GJEP.

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