Seven Generations Into the Future

Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams gives us his take on political activism.
April 19, 2017, 8:00pm
Jumaane Williams

This is an opinion piece from Jumaane Williams, Council Member for Brooklyn's 45th Council District.

This year, there has been a lot to protest. On top of the continued assaults on so many, including immigrants, the LGBTQ community, women, and Muslims, the Trump Administration has added a new target for their attacks – the environment.

The world is reeling from the draconian attacks on climate policy by President Donald Trump. In his first 100 days as president, Trump has made dramatic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, dismantled former President Barack Obama's climate legacy, gave permission to complete the controversial Dakota Access and the Keystone XL Pipelines, and pulled back from the Paris Climate agreements of 2014.

Our planet is warming. Our oceans are rising. Glacial ice is melting. We're experiencing extreme and unpredictable weather conditions. None of this is by chance, or something that should be ignored.

Although facts don't matter for this president, the evidence and science is still overwhelmingly clear. Our planet is warming. Our oceans are rising. Glacial ice is melting. We're experiencing extreme and unpredictable weather conditions. None of this is by chance, or something that should be ignored. The consequences are far reaching and long lasting. Our ability to provide safe food and water will be threatened. Coastal cities like New York, and island nations like those in the Caribbean, are in particular danger.

While most scientists agree that we must move toward a sustainable energy economy and move away from using fossil fuels as soon as possible, there is not yet a shared vision of what a future working with the planet instead of against it would look like.


The march for Climate, Jobs and Justice on April 29 offers that vision.

The march makes a bold statement: we can address some of our most pressing social and economic needs through a well-thought-out shift in energy policy. What is also made apparent is that we do not have to divorce our fight for social justice from saving our environment. It is possible to do both.

The organizers of the march talk about a 'just transition," one that looks squarely at the losses that the old economy has created, which is categorized by massive inequity, a lack of good jobs for people from low-income communities and job training for youth, coupled with crumbling infrastructure. We consistently see that the people that are hit hardest by this are those in low-income neighborhoods, and those in communities of color.

There is an opportunity here to improve the environment and the lives of some of the world's most marginalized populations. A shift in our energy policy could mean training workers for good paying jobs in a new energy economy by rebuilding infrastructure of roads, bridges, public housing and schools that minimize greenhouse gases.

In calling for a "just transition," the framework of climate change can ensure well-paying jobs, and safe communities for all.

While I understand why some trade groups and unions, particularly in the fossil fuel sector—coal, oil and gas—want to keep their jobs, it's short-sighted to support Trump's war on the planet. Instead of working against the interests of the environment, I would challenge these groups to bargain for these transition jobs and embrace a shift in energy policy that will keep our planet safe for our children and grandchildren.

There is a tradition among many Native Americans to judge decisions on how they affect people "seven generations" into the future. If we look squarely at our present treatment of planet Earth we can see that we certainly won't have a habitable planet in seven generations. We must act now in our personal decisions of how we live and how our government acts on our behalf.

I urge all who can to march for Climate, Jobs and Justice in Washington, DC on April 29. I want to live on a planet that holds a future for humans that includes safe food and water, good housing, good jobs, and safe communities. That is a package and a vision that can bring us together.