For the sake of the next generation, let’s do lunch!


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Elections are finally over. After a long and hard-to-watch campaign, we all survived and may breathe in relief that we are past that period. 

The results, well, not everyone is pleased with the outcome — like it is in any election — but as far as the environment is concerned, we had two important local victories that, despite the prognostic of changes at the federal level, will greatly help to improve local conditions.

The first great victory was the rejection of Amendment 1, the Consumers for Smart Solar deceiving amendment that pretended to be pro-solar but was anything but. The utility companies put about $26 million toward that campaign. However, pro-solar citizens and volunteers pushed back by educating the community and voting against the amendment. In the end, the measure was defeated by 54 percent in Brevard; 49 percent in Florida.

That victory opens up the market for solar companies and for initiatives like the FL SUN (flsun.org), a project of Community Power Network and the Florida League of Women Voters. As part of its plan of expanding access to solar, FL SUN has developed solar co-ops to help more residents transition to solar and has been holding informational meetings in Brevard.

The other great victory was the passing of the Save Our Lagoon Referendum that increases our sales tax by a half-cent for 10 years for funding the Save Our Lagoon Project Plan. Funds collected will help Brevard County bring our lagoon back to health.

Those two are reasons for celebration. At the federal level, though, there are indications of tougher times ahead of us as we learn about transition teams and action plans.

As The New York Times reported, Myron Ebell, whose organization is financed in part by the coal industry, was the person President-elect Donald Trump chose to lead the transition at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and be the “lead agent in choosing personnel and setting the direction of the federal agencies that address climate change and environmental policy more broadly.” 

His organization “questions global warming alarmism, opposes energy-rationing policies, and EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions,” as well as “all government mandates and subsidies for conventional and alternative energy technologies.” 

With the prospect of having Ebell leading the EPA, we should be paying close attention to what is to come.

In his 100-day action plan, Trump listed the following among his measures to address “real environmental challenges, not phony ones”:

  • Rescind the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.
  • Save the coal industry and other threatened industries.
  • Ask Trans Canada to renew its permit application for the Keystone Pipeline.
  • Revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies.
  • Cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.
  • Scrap any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers or contrary to the national interest.
  • Eliminate duplication, provide regulatory certainty and trust local officials and local residents.
  • Any future regulation will go through a simple test: is this regulation good for the American worker? If it doesn’t pass this test, the rule will not be approved.

We don’t know exactly what those actions mean and how they would be implemented, but one has to hope environmental experts and scientists will be consulted and heard.

And this is what we need most right now — not only our leaders, but all of us: to hear and be heard. If we give each other a chance to talk, we may find common ground on many issues. There is a lot that can be accomplished through open dialog and, for the sake of the next generation, we must start honest, respectful conversation. 

In her 2010 TED Talk, Take The Other to Lunch, Elizabeth Lesser calls for “civility and understanding as we negotiate our differences as human beings.” She suggests that everyone should "take the other to lunch" and get to know the “other side” in order to find a middle ground and be able to work toward solutions together. As conversation guidelines she lists sharing life experiences, enumerating issues that deeply concern each party, and asking something about the other party that one always wanted to know.

That should be a start and hopefully a practice in all realms of society, especially politics where the dialog is long overdue. So how about lunch?