“Thank you, Senator Blumenthal, for your courage and leadership.” These were the words of each speaker as they approached the podium and news cameras to address President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. The Senator called the press conference at the CT Legislative Office Building the afternoon of the pullout to express strong opposition to the decision, asserting quite clearly that this hasty choice would be a mistake for America. For me, as a college student majoring in environmental studies and political science, it was a meaningful place to be and an exciting start to a summer internship.
The Senator said, “Climate change denial is self-destructive, and America is made a lesser nation by doing this. America will regret this.” Clean Water Action representative Guy West called attention to the danger of the “alternative facts” fueling the decision to pull out of the Agreement. Mr. West added, “We must be cautious of alternative facts. Not only are they not facts, they are not true.”
Senator Blumenthal and other environmental leaders of Connecticut are leading the local fight in what will be a long and challenging road for mitigation and adaptation efforts for climate change. Despite President Trump’s belief that staying in the Agreement will be a “job-killer,” we know jobs related to mitigation efforts will grow in Connecticut, as it continues to be the top fuel cell capital of the world. As the Senator said, “Investing in climate change creates tens of thousands of local jobs, and Connecticut needs to be on the forefront of that.”
The press conference was not only about climate change, but a call to leadership. Opposition to the Paris pullout should begin from the bottom-up. Leaders at every single level can play an big role in their communities and throughout the region. We can all join the fight - it can be as simple as encouraging your family and friends to speak up with you - to show the power of millions of voices coming together.
This is the time to rise up and demand that our leaders take action and defend our democracy, not sell out our future. The climate, as well as the oceans, forests, and other ecosystems, reinforce the critical balance of biodiversity we need in order to thrive. WE could lose that if we don't act now.
But the uncertainty of where to go and what to do next in this fight is unsettling. It’s easy to feel powerless and it’s challenging to be brave and speak up. But doing what is challenging and demanding what is right reveals so many more strengths than staying in one’s comfort zone. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and my voice may just be whisper in the political arena, but I will be heard as other leaders of different levels and purposes join in with me to stand up for what is right.
We need new leaders to get engaged to compensate for what our current elected officials in DC have neglected to prioritize - action on climate. Addressing climate change begins with something as simple as asking your neighbor to think very hard about what we can and cannot do without. Something we cannot do without: a healthy world and a climate viable to all.
I may be just starting as the intern, but supporting Senator Blumenthal’s opposition to Trump’s decision is an objective I can get behind; an objective any sensible individual can take on as well.
Derek Koundakjian is a Connecticut Summer 2017 Clean Energy Intern