Settling into the back of a worn but spotless cab, I offered the driver a bottle of water that I wouldn't be able to carry through security at D.C.'s National airport on my way back to Maine. He smiled broadly and thanked me for the drink because he was fasting for Ramadan. In just a few minutes of friendly banter, I learned his name was Taban and he had immigrated from Somalia 29 years ago, gotten his citizenship and put his five kids through college. I asked if he was worried about Trump. "No, because everywhere you travel overseas, people love Americans and they know Trump does not speak for the majority of Americans," he said. Despite a travel ban aimed directly at his homeland, and a lifetime of hard labor in concrete work and cab-driving, Taban had the sunniest disposition imaginable and he waved away any notion that Trump was going to have a lasting negative impact. "America is strong and good," said Taban, "and the world knows this about us."
Taban's profoundly upbeat, long-term outlook rejuvenated my spirit and reminded me that positive action and attitude are the strongest response to the constant thrum of regressive policies and divisive rhetoric pulsing out of Washington. As we look forward to Independence Day, I'm grateful that a majority of Americans understand our greatest strength is cohesion through shared values and universal access to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Taban's hard-earned achievement of the American dream reminded me that it is up to us to seize the better future we want for ourselves and for future generations, and it is up to us to defend the core principles of truth and justice and science and innovation that have helped make America the world's shining beacon of opportunity.
Trump's reckless decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord moves us away from those core principles. A majority of Americans, including Republican CEOs, most of Trump's own administration, the US Military, and Americans across the political, economic and cultural spectrum -grasp the incontrovertible truth: renewable energy is homeland security, and we must urgently reduce our dependence on finite, polluting fossil fuels. With global population on its way to 9 billion by 2050, failure to solve this problem leads to one of two outcomes: the collapse of the fossil fuels we have become over-reliant upon, or, we make the earth inhospitable by saturating the atmosphere with pollution.
Thankfully there is a third path that ReVision Energy and many others across the globe are marching towards every day: the transition to a 100% renewable energy powered society as orderly and rapidly as possible, creating powerful economic and environmental benefits for everyone. This good news has parallels to the reality that the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; it ended because we evolved.
The facts below underscore the reality that there is zero downside risk in the clean energy transition that is already underway and gathering momentum despite the colossal efforts of the fossil fuel industry to resist progress:
In 1922 more than 120,000 Americans were employed in the harness-making industry for horses. By 1928, as the automobile rapidly gained transportation dominance, the harness-making industry was basically extinct. Did we resuscitate harness-making to make American great again? No, we embraced the automobile industry and unleashed tremendous job and economic growth across the country. This is the trajectory of renewables despite unrelenting attacks by the fossil fuel industry that wants to cling to the past.
Like my humble new Muslim friend Taban, Michael Bloomberg is another source of inspiration in troubled times. Immediately following news of Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, Bloomberg stepped in and pledged to personally contribute America's $15 million share of funding to the United Nations, which will be used to help other countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the agreement. "Americans are not walking away from the Paris Climate Agreement," said Bloomberg. "Just the opposite-we are forging ahead. Americans are leading from the bottom up and there is nothing Washington can do to stop us."
Bloomberg along with over 20 Fortune 500 companies, including Apple, eBay, Gap Inc., Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Nike, in addition to hundreds of small businesses, mayors, investors, and colleges and universities from across the U.S. or with significant operations in the U.S., have all signed a statement pledging to continue to meet carbon reduction obligations called for in the Paris Agreement, a new coalition called "We Are Still In."
In Somalia, the name Taban means "cheerful" and "sunny." When we're feeling beaten down by what we see in the world, let's remember smaller heroes like Taban and titans like Michael Bloomberg and follow their excellent examples of maintaining a positive outlook and taking positive action to create the better future we know our children deserve.