From climate change to migrants, US cities like San Francisco – so popular that a one-bedroom apartment can cost $6,000 a month to rent – are standing up to Donald Trump, writes Susan Dalgety.
America has been on fire this week with the latest revelations from the “crazy town” that is Washington.
“It is much, much worse than Watergate,” the TV pundits exclaim excitedly. All except those on Fox News of course, who remain stubbornly loyal to Trump.
It took a veteran of the Nixon scandal, 75-year-old Bob Woodward, one of the two journalists who broke the story in 1973, to expose the madness that currently passes for the US government, in his new book, Fear.
He tells of a President drunk on power. “Assassinate Assad,” screams Trump. “Ditch South Korea trade,” he orders. “It’s man versus man, me versus Kim,” he declares, on deciding how best to handle the threat of nuclear war with North Korea.
And Trump’s very own Deep Throat, an anonymous White House staffer writing in the New York Times on Wednesday, confirms that the President is, as the world has long suspected, “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective”.
But don’t worry, the insider writes, there is a “quiet resistance” movement within the White House made up of people “choosing to put country first”.
Phew, well that is all right then. Someone will stop Trump from pressing the nuclear button and sending us all into oblivion.
Except it is perhaps too late to stop Trump and his crazy town allies from destroying our planet.
The President may be petty and ineffective on the world stage, but he has been a veritable powerhouse when it comes to climate change.
In a whirwind of activity, he has set about dismantling America’s response to global warming.
He is getting rid of Obama’s plan for clean power, has delayed new vehicle emission standards, opened up new oil and gas drilling and, of course, he “digs” coal.
And in a move that shocked even the most cynical Trump-watcher, he has pulled America out of the Paris climate agreement.
Travelling from Montana to Washington State and down the west coast to San Francisco in recent weeks, we have witnessed first-hand the impact of climate change.
For two weeks the big skies of the north west were enveloped in a haze of smoke particles from the wildfires in Califormia and Canada, making breathing difficult at times. We got used to the constant headaches and blocked sinuses.
The weather forecast for Seattle simply said “smoke” each time we checked in advance of our visit.
“It’s been terrible,” said the young woman in the Apple shop. “I have had a headache for weeks, I love Seattle, but I think I want to move ... maybe to Amsterdam, that is my dream.”
Joe McFarlane got so fed up of the wild fires in his home state of California that he has just moved to Helena, Montana’s state capital, only to have the smokey haze follow him.
He’s an angry man. “I’m a Vietnam vet,” he says. “And I love my country. But we have got to look after it. Trump doesn’t care.
“I worked in pollution for fifteen years. I cleaned up the mess left behind by big corporations. They didn’t care either. Just dumped their rubbish on the hills, wherever.
“Trump is an idiot. I am ashamed of him. He is destroying our country, literally. And no-one is stopping him.”
Califormia is doing its best. Next week, Governor Jerry Brown will host the Global Climate Action summit here in San Francisco, which will bring environmental experts and local politicians from across the world to discuss ways in which cities can protect the planet.
And the newly elected mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, is one of 407 ‘Climate Mayors’ across America dedicated to tackling climate change.
She is also the first black woman mayor of the city and only the second woman to win its top job. Shockingly, she is the only woman to lead one of America’s 14 biggest cities.
And she is no fan of Donald Trump.
Immediately after his election, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which Ms Breed led at the time, agreed her 11-point resolution to stand up against Trump in key areas such as universal health care, public transport and women’s rights.
On climate change she said: “... it is not a hoax, or a plot by the Chinese. In this city, surrounded by water on three sides, science matters. And we will continue our work on CleanPower, Zero Waste, and everything else we are doing to protect future generations. We are not giving in, not an inch.”
It’s a promise she seems determind to keep.
Next week, she is expected to announce a bold plan for San Francisco to meet its target of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. From 2030, all new buildings in the city will have to be net-zero carbon emitters.
San Francisco has a special place in my heart. It was my introduction to America 21 years ago, when I had my honeymoon there.
And my maternal grandfather, Harry O’Hare, was one of the hundreds of immigrant labourers who helped build the city’s Golden Gate Bridge. Soon afterwards, he was deported for being an “illegal alien”, but that is another story.
It is, almost, the best of America. The streets teem with young people from across the world, attracted by its tech industries, its temperate climate and its progressive attitudes.
The city has provided universal healthcare for more than a decade, it is a Sanctuary City, offering a safe haven to refugees and asylum seekers, and it has a properly integrated transport system, from commuter ferries to light rail.
But it is one of the most expensive places to live in the country. Flicking through a glossy magazine, I was shocked by adverts for one-bedroom apartments costing $6,000 (£4,600) a month to rent.
“No-one can afford to live here, honey,” laughed Tracy, who served us Californian Pinot Noir down by the newly gentrified ferry port.
“My husband and I live across the bay, even so it costs us $1,500 a month for a tiny two-bedroom place you can barely move in,” she said.
“When we retire in five years time, we’re moving to Arizona. You can buy a big place there for $200,000. Sheessh, you can’t buy nothing for that here.”
But the new Mayor has a plan for housing too, one which includes 5,000 new homes a year.
Tackling climate change, while fixing San Francisco’s over-heated housing market, may seem like insurmountable challenges to most people.
But for London Breed, brought up in poverty in one of her city’s notorious public housing estates, they are all in a day’s work.
Meanwhile, back in crazy town, the most powerful man in the world angrily tweets into the night.