See last week’s opening: "Week One: The Inflection Point"

"I wish I was in Paris," I said.
"Me, too," Emma said. "Maybe after the election. We won’t really have time for a honeymoon before that."
"I mean, for the carbon summit," I said.
"Oh. That. It would be nice. Better than this place, anyway." We were staying in a Days Inn in Hanover, county seat of Hanover County, New Jersey, waiting for our new house to close. Not to say anything negative about the Days Inn in Hanover, New Jersey — I had actually gone to the trouble of writing a very positive review about them on Yelp — but it isn’t Paris, not by a longshot.
"They’re debating the fate of the planet," I said. "I ought to be there. I could make a difference, somehow."
"You can make a difference right here in New Jersey," Emma said. "Don’t forget, we have the PJ event today."
"I don’t really like pajamas," I said. "Could I just show up in a nice fluffy bathrobe? I can pull mine out of storage."
"Not pajamas, silly," she said. "You have the weirdest sense of humor sometimes. It’s the Pan-Jersey event. You know? The new pipeline?"
The biggest environmental issue in Hanover County at the moment was the construction of the Pan-Jersey pipeline, which would route natural gas from fracking operations in Central Pennsylvania to refineries in Port Elizabeth, which would then load the gas onto dangerous "floating bomb" compressed natural gas carriers, which would then send it to other countries to be burned, and thereby besmirch the good face of Mother Gaia with yet more carbon dioxide. The pipeline would run right through Hanover County, and many local residents objected to it. It was vital that I be on the correct side of the pipeline issue, and it was just my good luck that most voters were on my side. That made things easier.
"We need to be there at noon," Emma said. "You need to get dressed. Suit and tie, please."
"Can I wear my Greenpeace tie-dye shirt under my suit?" I asked.
"Still in storage," Emma said. "You’ll have to dress conservative today."
"Okay," I said. "But no American flag pin."
"You are totally wearing the American flag pin, Justin. I am begging you."
I sighed. It was going to be a long day.
We had spent the last weekend driving our new Prius (purchased at Hanover Toyota, with free undercoating kicked in by a Democratic loyalist and early campaign supporter) around the parking lot at Hanover Mall, and I was now a fairly efficient driver. I found a parking space near the protest site, and Emma dug the bullhorn out of the trunk. We didn’t have any campaign literature printed out yet, and wouldn’t for a little while, but this wasn’t really a campaign event–it was a chance for me to get my face out in front of the voters and show them I cared about this vital issue that was central to our fight against carbon emissions. There were twenty-five or thirty other carbon warriors out in front of the courthouse, and I was glad to see them. I was hoping that they would be the backbone of my campaign volunteer staff. I dove into the crowd, shaking hands and introducing myself. I had a stash of antiviral wipes in my inside coat pocket, which I would deploy covertly as soon as I possibly could. You can’t fight nearly as hard for social justice when you’re fighting off colds.
"You’re Justin Trudeau?" someone asked me.
"Justin Trudeau-Fairchild," I said. "I’m not Canadian." I was doing my best to downplay my hyphenated name, going by just plain Justin T. Fairchild, but the notoriety of my quasi-namesake in Ottawa was still following me around like a bad smell.
"That’s right," he said. "Aaron McKenzie. I’m the mayor here."
"Pleasure to meet you," I said. "We’ll have to talk later. I want to pick your brain about the race, if that’s all right."
"Let’s do it," he said. "Tell you what. I’m going to go up and speak, and then I’ll hand it off to you, and if you want to talk to some of our local press, I’ll introduce you. That work for you?"
"That’s outstanding," I said. "Thanks so much."
Mayor McKenzie gave a good speech, but I felt that he wasn’t hitting the important issues. He was talking about water quality, which is of course important, but certainly not the stirring sort of issue that moves people to true environmental action. Then he started talking about how the pipeline company hadn’t filed the permits the right way, and I kind of stopped paying attention after that. But he ended the speech with a rousing call to stop the pipeline, and everyone applauded, and that was my cue.
"We have a special guest today," he said. "A young man, but a committed activist, who’s here today from Washington to talk about the real issues that we’re dealing with in this pipeline fight. Please join me in welcoming Justin Trudeau-Fairchild."
I felt a rush of emotions. This is what I had been working for all my life — seven years in prep school, four (well, more like five) years at Amherst, and what seemed like a lifetime in DC. I was getting to talk at a political rally, at my own campaign! It was a magic moment, like your first kiss, your first drink, or your first interpretative dance recital.
"Thank you all for being here today," I said. "My name is Justin T. Fairchild, and I’ve just moved to Hanover County–we’re in the process of buying a house–and I want to live here for a good long time. Like you, I’m very concerned about our quality of life here in the Garden State, and I want to do everything in my power to keep the Pan-Jersey people from stomping on it with their big huge carbon footprint!"
Everyone applauded at that point, and it felt heady. I could get used to this, I thought. I could see why politicians loved doing this, hearing the roar of the crowd. I decided to see if I could get the crowd to go the other way.
"Now, the oil company fatcats want to ram this pipeline right through Hanover County," I said, which elicited a satisfying chorus of boos, and a couple of old-school hisses, the way we did it at Amherst that time when they invited Mitt Romney to speak. "But we’re all standing here, shoulder to shoulder, to make sure that doesn’t happen! We’re here to tell those frackers no! Not here! Not in Hanover County!"
And that got even more enthusiastic responses. I could see Emma out of the corner of my eye, and she was beaming with pride, clapping along with the crowd. I was doing well for my first time, and I decided to keep going.
"And once we’re done, once we’ve stopped this pipeline once and for all, then we can tell the other pipeline companies that they’re not welcome in New Jersey! We can tell Trans-Gas that they need to pull up their stakes and go!"
For some reason, that got a lot less clapping, and I could see Mayor McKenzie rolling his eyes. I had fouled up, and didn’t know why. "But the important thing," I plowed along, "is that we win this fight, today! That we say no to Pan-Jersey!" And that got a little more applause, and I decided to quit while I was ahead, and handed the microphone off to this little old lady who hadn’t put her Greenpeace tie-dyes in storage.
Mayor McKenzie grabbed my elbow about three seconds later. "What the hell was that about?" he asked.
"Are you some kind of idiot?"
"No," I said.
"I can see being against Pan-Jersey. They didn’t choose a very good route, and there’s a real issue on water contamination. But you can’t seriously think they’re going to pull out the Trans-Gas pipeline!"
"It’s all part of the same fossil fuels corruption," I said.
"Are you some kind of environmentalist maniac?" he asked. "Trans-Gas is the number one commercial taxpayer in this town! They pull out, there goes library funding, half the police department, health insurance cutbacks… I can’t even think how we’d balance the budget."
Emma had wandered over by this point. "He didn’t realize what he said," she explained. "Now that he knows, he’s not going to make that mistake again."
"It wasn’t a mistake," I said. "Pipelines just enable the oil companies to ruin the planet. They ought to all be destroyed."
"Young man," Mayor McKenzie said, "you need to study the issues a little bit before you even think about running for Congress in this county. I want to see a Democrat win as much as anyone, but there’s no way I can support someone who wants to cut this town’s tax base. We’ve got a municipal economy to think of."
"He understands," Emma said. "He just lets his activism get away from him a little. Isn’t that right, Justin?"
"I understand," I said.
"See that you do," the mayor said. ""If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to talk to a couple of reporters. I recommend that you keep your mouth shut and let me try to address the damage you might have just caused, okay?"
"Okay," I said.
I followed Emma back to the Prius, and we drove in silence back to the Days Inn. We went into the room, and I hung up my jacket and put my tie away. Emma sat at the bed and looked at her phone.
"There’s a photo of you on the Hanover Herald, but nothing in the article about the Trans-Gas thing," she said. "So that’s good. The mayor saved our bacon on that one."
"It’s not a local issue," I said. "It’s a global issue. Stopping all the pipelines is necessary for the global climate. I don’t see how that’s even debatable."
"It’s debatable," she said, "because you’re not in Paris at a global summit, you’re in Hanover County, trying to get elected, and everything is local. The sooner you learn that, the better."
I nodded, to tell her I understood. And I did. I didn’t want to take Mayor McKenzie’s tax base out from under him. But climate change is going to demand sacrifices from all of us, sooner rather than later, even if no one wants to think about it, or talk about it. It would take a lot of hard work, and I had to get elected first to do the hard work. If that meant compromising my environmentalist principles, then that was all a part of going the distance.
Check out previous installments from last year: