Good Riddance to that Deadbeat, 2017. And Hopeful Greetings to a Fresh New Year.

December 21, 2017 | 3:58 pm
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Flickr
Erika Spanger-Siegfried
Director of Strategic Climate Analytics

Many millions of us are dying for 2017 to be over and for a fresh, if symbolic new start. We’re crawling toward 2018, just waiting to donkey kick the door shut behind us. As we bag up these last 12 months for shipment to Yucca Mountain, I’m trying to take a moment… both to scream into a pillow over what’s gone down and pull it together for what comes next. 

We had a bad feeling about 2017 from start. When the year turned and a Donald Trump administration took control, we were deeply uneasy. We felt like the storybook orphan who meets their new sketchy stepmother or distant-uncle-turned-guardian: okay, this is bad. But surely not as bad as it looks…

Oh, innocent January 2017 selves! No, kids. It was way, way worse.

Now we see 2017 for the sleazy, shambolic dumpster fire in the 10th circle of hell that it is. Just my take – I know others take a truly dim view of the past year.

We started the year full of fight — and we’re still fighting, make no mistake. But man, the hits kept coming. Facts were devalued, lies were legitimized, shame went AWOL. It’s not that our resolve to resist has weakened. It’s just that, after a point, all the outrages shot from a firehose started to blend together. Resist… which?

We became convinced that the president woke up on Monday demanding a list of the most destabilizing, divisive, and ideally, rude things he could do on the national and global stage that week, and then set about tweeting them into reality from bed. There were some weeks you could only laugh. What?!! He shrunk our national monuments, upended decades of Middle East diplomacy, and formally endorsed accused child molester Roy Moore? Someone get an XL Havahart trap with a diet Coke to the West Wing, STAT. By the holidays, he’ll be skeet-shooting puppies. With Congress reloading.

So, in a matter of days, it’ll be 2018, at last… Then what? Is there reason to think we’ll be more effective fighting back? Is there reason to think we haven’t hit rock bottom, when it has gathered such a bottomless quality?  I’m not sure about the last one – things may get worse in some ways before they get better. But I would say hell, yes to the first. You can already see signs of it, thank you Alabama. More on that in 2018.

But before we do any of that, some rest and rejuvenation is in order. Some celebration, even. I hear (from my kids every waking moment) there are holidays happening. I hope, whatever you do, you get to start the new year feeling refreshed.

My family does a little solstice celebration each year where we go to the edge of the woods at dusk as the longest night gathers. It’s a nod to the darkness – okay, you rule the world right now. But as we light small, defiant candles, it’s also a way of standing with the light. Of welcoming it back. Of believing in what lies ahead and being hopeful.

We hold these candles and we talk about what we’re grateful for from the closing year, and what we’re hopeful for in the coming year. Last solstice, we were scared, but we hoped lots of people would stand together and stop bad things from happening. This solstice, I’m grateful for the millions and millions of people who have fought so hard this year — for truth, justice, decency, our shared and deepest values. We’re wounded but wiser and, actually, we’ve just begun to fight. So this solstice, I’m hopeful once again for the future of this country as together we bring back the light.

Step 1: Rejoice! Step 2: Revive. Step 3: Resist.  And, as needed, Repeat a year from now.

Happy New Year, all!



Posted in: Climate Change

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Erika Spanger-Siegfried, the Director of Strategic Climate Analytics in the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, researches, writes and speaks about US climate change impacts and preparedness.