Steven T. Jones
Activist and Former Editor, San Francisco Bay Guardian
San Francisco, California, United States

New Deal for the Climate

“We changed the world you inherited, and it was the proudest moment of my life. ”

Dear Future Descendants,

Greetings from the year everything changed, 2015, when we finally started to avert the climate catastrophe that was headed your way. The change began right here in the United States, and it spread around the world with remarkable speed.

Basically, the American people decided to do their share in addressing the problem. They stopped accepting brave words from their leaders and started demanding brave deeds. And the federal government responded with bold actions, setting an example for others to follow.

First, we decided to keep more of the country’s dirty fossil fuels in the ground. It was an obvious change that climate scientists had been calling for, yet oil and gas prices were ridiculously low that year because of oversupply. People saw that disconnect and demanded a change. It began in the Arctic with a permanent ban on offshore oil drilling, following inspired activism against Shell’s project there. That victory inspired the movement to ban fossil fuel leases on all public lands. “Keep it in the ground,” became our mantra, and we got support from around the world.

President Obama reversed his stance on offshore oil drilling, cancelling plans to drill in the Atlantic and shutting down aging oil platforms and pipelines along California’s coastline and in the Gulf of Mexico. California Governor Jerry Brown also recognized that the political winds had changed and banned fracking, a hazardous process used to squeeze more oil and natural gas from each well. Other states followed.

Then the president strengthened power plant pollution rules and moved quickly to cut carbon emissions from airplanes and other unregulated sources. Obama pledged to create “a New Deal for our climate,” creating a federal jobs program to build clean energy infrastructure and public transit.

Heading into the international climate talks in Paris that November, President Obama used the popular momentum to raise the bar for everyone. China responded in kind, doubling its domestic climate goals and pledging that its infrastructure projects around the world would be carbon-neutral. Rich nations committed to helping developing countries leapfrog over dirty fossil fuels and into a clean-energy future.

Climate change became the issue that unified hundreds of disparate social movements, a reset button on a planet that was spinning out of control, a chance to start over with an emphasis on sustainability. We changed the world you inherited, and it was the proudest moment of my life.

Activist who wore "Frostpaw" costume in Alaska climate protests and former editor, San Francisco Bay Guardian.