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Where Do We Go From Here?

Insights + Opinion
Where Do We Go From Here?
Bob Wick / BLM

By John R. Platt

Let's be honest: This has been a truly exhausting year.

We started 2020 already worn thin by three years of the Trump administration, with its constant assaults on the environment and human decency on display almost every single day — and it got worse from there.


In February the coronavirus pandemic hit and took off like a wildfire, killing hundreds of thousands of people in this country and leaving millions underemployed or without jobs, healthcare, homes or beloved family and friends.

The virus would have been bad enough on its own, but the willful, outrageous failure of the Trump administration to address it, and the failure of many state and local elected officials as well, made it all much worse — and so much more exhausting.

But then, that failure shouldn't have come as a surprise. The denial of climate science from just about everyone on the far right — fueled by corporate influencers, Fox News, social-media platforms and their soul-draining ilk — had already showed us that science denial could rear its ugly head the next time we faced a crisis.

And it did, in spades.

Of course, COVID-19 wasn't the only thing to sap our strength this year. The pandemic came alongside seemingly countless racial injustices, angry protests, violence and intimidation by right-wing extremists, and the worst election season this country has ever seen — one characterized more than anything else by a bloviating, habitual liar seeking reelection.

His performance in the first presidential debate — like watching a rabid dog on stage — may be what pushed my own exhaustion past the breaking point. From then on the election kept going downhill, my doomscrolling went into hyperdrive, and our collective grief continued to swell while more and more people got sick and died.

And yet it kept getting worse. Spurred on by Trump's lies about the virus, people and communities "debated" whether they should or should not wear masks, stay home, stop partying, stop coming to the office — an endless fuel of "free-dumbness" driven once again by the increasingly righter-than-ever right-wing media and what passes for leadership in the Grand Old Party.

And through it all, the world experienced record temperatures, species went extinct, millions were displaced by the world's worst hurricane season and endless fires, and…and…and…

…and a record 81 million people stood up and voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. More voters turned out this year than any election in history, and many of us had to fight to get our votes and our voices recognized.

Maybe we weren't so exhausted, after all? Or maybe we tapped into some final reserve of strength, saved for just such an emergency.

So here's where we are now: Although the shockwaves of 2020 will be felt for a long time, and we're all obviously still exhausted, this devastating year is nearly over. Now's the time to heal, to rest, and to take all the energy we would normally have poured into the holidays and pour it into taking care of ourselves and our loved ones.

And while we're at it, stay safe and physically distant, wear masks, share scientifically accurate information, and help others to recover from the ravages of the pandemic so we can get back to the greater task of saving the planet.

And the Biden win — assuming it's not stolen at the last minute by Trump operatives and Republican legislators committed to a coup — sets us up for a lot of success.

"Biden has put forward a bold climate plan with ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions and support for both regulatory and market-driven policy measures," climate scientist Michael C. Mann tells me. "If Democrats take back the Senate, there is real opportunity for meaningful climate action by the U.S. — and not a moment too soon. A Biden win will stop the hemorrhaging, but there is a lot of work that will need to be done in repairing our reputation on the world stage."

Heck, there's still a lot of work and repairing to do in general — more than ever, in fact, since we're now four years behind where we should have been by this point.

But that work won't be possible without taking care of ourselves. That's why our team here at The Revelator is about to take a couple of weeks off to recuperate and recharge. We've published hundreds of articles and commentaries over the past year and we're going to do it again next year — but if we don't rest up now, we won't make it very far.

I sincerely hope you also get a chance to rest the final few weeks of the year. I know that kind of rest is a privilege not everyone has.

So do our best to reboot and meet back here the first week of January. We already have a lot of good stories in development for the New Year, and we're excited to share them with you.

Of course, before we get that far, we'll have one more source of exhaustion to contend with: the drawn-out, sore-loser end of the Trump era. Just as the post-election period was filled with Trump shenanigans, malarkey and the attempted reversal of the election, so will the very last weeks be a chance for the outgoing White House occupants and their enablers to tear every bite they can out of the government and the environment.

So keep an eye out for tomfoolery — we will, too.

Rest up, exhausted readers. The fight to save our planet and everything that lives here will keep up in 2021 — and far beyond.

John R. Platt is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications. His "Extinction Countdown" column has run continuously since 2004 and has covered news and science related to more than 1,000 endangered species. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. John lives on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., where he finds himself surrounded by animals and cartoonists.

Reposted with permission from The Revelator.

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