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Bi-partisanship reigned Wednesday morning when the Democratic Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti joined former Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger at an event to promote environmental awareness in the age of Donald Trump.
At the talk, which was hosted by CAA, Garcetti and Schwarzenegger struck an optimistic tone imploring those present to not lose faith in the environmental movement even in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord last month.
“Power that only comes from the top down is never a vision that I had. The city and state is where the action is at,” said Garcetti, hammering home the theme of local activism that would be revisited repeatedly throughout the hourlong discussion.
“This president is so far out of whack with the reality, the science and the economic needs and health concerns that we are just going to keep taking up the slack and running with it,” said the mayor, who was speaking a day after announcing the completion of the Westmont Solar Energy Project in San Pedro. That project will be the most powerful rooftop solar project in the world when it meets its goal of producing more than 28 million Kilowatt-hours of electricity every year.
During his two terms as governor, Schwarzenegger repeatedly clashed with the Bush administration over environmental issues and even sued the Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 in order to get permission to impose stricter auto emissions standards. Recently he has been serving as an unofficial ambassador travelling to Vienna and Paris to address European leaders and assure them that many Americans remain committed to meeting the greenhouse gas targets set by the Paris agreement. In April, French President Francois Hollande presented Schwarzenegger with the country’s highest honor of his country, making him a Commandeur of the Legion of Honor for his environmental advocacy. “We will be successful in our environmental movement if we have people power,” he said.
More recently, the former governor has been engaged in an all-out Twitter war with President Trump over a range of issues. “What we really showed is that the federal government can’t stop you. The local and regional level is where all the power is,” he said.
The talk, which was moderated by Rachel Kropa, co-director of the CAA Foundation, touched upon regional versus local activism and the role that public and private partnerships can play. When the conversation veered into messaging, Schwarzenegger had some choice words for the scientific community and their failure to effectively communicate the gravity and breadth of the problem.
“Environmentalists have communicated this terribly, they have been communicating from a one-legged stool and not a four-legged stool,” he said, explaining that the four legs of his stool are climate change, health, the economy and foreign policy, which are all tied together. “It’s like in the movies, if you can’t communicate what the movie is about in one sentence, then you have nothing. Environmentalists have to learn how to communicate the right way,” said Schwarzenegger.
He also had the packed hall in stitches after delivering a few of his legendary zingers. Schwarzenegger told the moderator Kropa that she looked “pumped up” and after she was caught admiring his gold-laced, maroon leather cowboy boots, he told her he would let her wear them after the event — but only for an hour.
Garcetti, who will be sworn in for his second term as mayor on Saturday, admitted that it would be far too easy for environmentalists and progressives to wallow in the current moment. “It’s been a depressing year if you are a Democrat, a progressive or someone who believes in science. But don’t be depressed. Get off the floor and stop yelling at the cable networks,” he said.
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