Catalyst Winter 2018
First Principles

Reasons for Hope

Ken Kimmell speaks with a reporter at the Climate March in Washington, DC, in April 2017.
Photo: Audrey Eyring/UCS

By Ken Kimmell

Photo: Richard Howard

Let’s not mince words: 2017 was a uniquely dark and troubling year. Heightened tensions with North Korea; an EPA administrator taking a wrecking ball to environmental safeguards; racism, homophobia, and misogyny on display from the president himself; disdain for scientists and experts across government; and misguided policies that will take years to fix. Yet, despite all this, I have high hopes for 2018. Why?

First, because a massive grassroots resistance is demonstrating its power. We saw it in three key marches last winter, town hall meetings over the summer, and high turnout, engagement, and participation in two recent off-year elections that powerfully swept new voices into our political system. We see it in the astonishing rise of the #MeToo movement that has turned the tables on the sexual harassment of women. And at UCS, we’ve seen unprecedented growth of our Science Network, science watchdogs, and Science Champions—testament to the thousands of scientists and others who insist that facts matter and must guide our policies.

Second, state and local governments, businesses, universities, and others are stepping into the void left by the Trump administration’s abdication of environmental stewardship (particularly on climate), taking advantage of the remarkable improvements in technology and lower costs for solar, wind, energy storage, and electric vehicles.

Third, for the most part, our system of checks and balances has held, despite being severely tested. The media continues to expose official untruths, the courts have struck down at least some of the Trump administration’s attempted overreaches, and, of course, UCS continues to play our indispensable role of standing up for science and helping to build a healthier and more equitable society.

 Photos: Audrey Eyring/UCS (climate march); Richard Howard (headshot)