After Trump’s Exit From Paris Accord, Showbiz Activists Look to What’s Next

Donald Trump

In the hours after President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would exit the Paris climate agreement, there was no shortage among showbiz activists expressing frustration, dismay, and even disdain. But there also has been an effort to focus on what’s next.

“One man cannot destroy our progress. One man can’t stop our clean energy revolution. One man can’t go back in time,” former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a video message directed at Trump. Of the latter point, Schwarzenegger quipped, “Only I can do that.”

“The people will rise up. Local and state governments will rise up. Other leaders, from state and local governments, will rise up to fill the void that you are creating.”

“Today, our planet suffered,” Leonardo DiCaprio wrote on Twitter. “It’s more important than ever to take action.”

That’s what Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger did. He had been the sole entertainment industry figure on a White House advisory council of business leaders, but in the wake of Trump’s announcement, he resigned “as a matter of principle.”

The makers of “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” the follow up to the Al Gore documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” announced that the movie would be revised to reflect Trump’s announcement, before it is released nationally on July 28.

That is also the case with another upcoming movie, “From the Ashes,” which looks at the issues tied to the coal industry. The project, set to premiere on the National Geographic Channel on June 25, comes from National Geographic’s documentary unit and Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic efforts to address climate change.

“We kind of anticipated this so we cut things to allow for the easiest tweaking possible,” said director Michael Bonfiglio, who said that they will make small adjustments before airing.

He called Trump’s decision “heartbreaking, embarrassing, and incredibly frustrating.” He pointed to what Trump said about bringing back coal industry jobs, which is a focus of “From the Ashes,” along with the health implications. It also features one small town in Texas that transitioned to clean energy.

“Nobody likes to be told that the job they do to put food on the table is bad for the world,” Bonfiglio said. “But what Trump did is provide false hope. He said, ‘I am going to put you back to work.’ Ultimately, they are going to be burned, and they have been, by his policies.”

In his speech announcing the withdrawal, Trump embraced the very nationalistic, America-first themes that helped him win the election, framing the issue as a matter of jobs and the economy and directing part of his rhetoric to voters in the states that he won.

“I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said.

Trump said that “as someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do, I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States — which is what it does —  the world’s leader in environmental protection, while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters.”

The mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, said that the city would follow the guidelines of the Paris agreement, despite Trump’s decision.

Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said that “if the president is going to do less, that means we all have to do a lot more,” adding that it will be up to business leaders, non-profits, and state and local governments to “fill leadership voids.”

He had just gotten off the phone with Peduto. He said that the effect of Trump’s speech will be to accelerate the movement for action on climate change, “which is the opposite of what he intended.” He pointed to the commitments by a number of city mayors to move to 100% clean energy, and also pointed to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s commitment to make his company 100% reliable on renewable sources.

“This is a dark spot on our country’s history, but it is also going to be a blip on our radar screen,” Brune said. “We are going to overcome what the president is going to try to do and we will try to minimize the destructiveness of his policies.”

Trump’s announcement was aimed at his base, many of the working class voters frustrated by globalization and distrusting of elites. He has from time to time aimed that resentment at Hollywood, which for years has been a significant source of support for environmental organizations and celebrities willing to draw attention to the issue. Very soon after DiCaprio tweeted about the need for action came the swipes at celebrity use of private planes.

Debbie Levin, president and CEO of the Environmental Media Association, an industry group devoted to promoting environmental issues and solutions, said that despite negative social media comments, “most people that we work with are very clear about what they feel and what actions can be taken.”

“Celebrities can’t just say, ‘You have to do this,'” she said. “We would rather be encouraging and motivating and solution oriented.”

“It is about being able to speak from knowledge, and the fact that we are all on this journey together and to point out that ‘These are the choices that I am making,'” she said.

Levin called Trump’s announcement “disheartening,” and said that she had been getting plenty of texts from friends expressing alarm. She also said that she was a bit perplexed that Trump didn’t seem to take the advice of his business advisers, or see the business advantages of the climate agreement.

“All of the emerging great technology right now is working on new and better” energy innovation, she noted. “They are doing great.”

As for what the Environmental Media Association plans to do, Levin said that the goal “has kind of always been to be the loudest voice in the room, and it is about being louder.”