Over the past few months, President Trump has made his intention of dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) no secret. Mr. Trump called climate change a hoax and attacked the 2016 Paris Agreement that legally binds countries to reduce carbon emissions. Scott Pruitt–Mr. Trump’s pick for head of the EPA–has been a sharp critic of President Obama’s environmental regulations. Pruitt has also participated in lawsuits against initiatives such as the Clean Power Plan, which works in junction with the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
It is still uncertain what actions will be taken within the EPA under the Trump Administration, although there is a good chance that the budget and workforce of this agency will be slashed. What is clear is that Mr. Trump is prioritizing his corporate agenda of creating jobs and reducing regulatory burdens on business over protecting the environment. As a staunch supporter of big business, one of his first actions in office was to resume plans for constructing the Dakota Access (DAPL) and Keystone XL oil pipelines. This project was blocked under President Obama after protests erupted in Standing Rock, North Dakota. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe fear that an oil spill could pollute water supplies and threaten their traditional lands.
Mr. Trump’s order to continue with the construction of the pipeline is consistent with his support of fossil-fuel industries. On Monday, he issued an executive order that rolled back regulations on coal companies that prevented them from dumping mining waste into rivers. Environmental deregulation such as this serves corporate interests over the public good. Companies view natural resources as commodities to be plucked for their own enrichment; regulations only lower their profits by forcing them to spend money on keeping air and water clean. The true cost of deregulation is felt by the public when rivers are poisoned with lead and mercury and when the air becomes too polluted for people to go outside.
Climate change is supported by a large body of scientific evidence. According to NASA, sea levels have risen 6.7 inches in the past century and since 2001, Earth has experienced “15 of the 16 warmest years on record”. The reality of the situation is becoming more obvious with each passing year. The effects of climate change could prove irreversible unless action to curb greenhouse gas emission continues under Trump’s administration. Denial of the scientific evidence is not an option if we hope to preserve this planet for future generations.
Rising temperatures, severe weather, and rising sea levels resulting from climate change threaten our resources and wilderness preserves. In California, global warming has made the drought more severe. Hotter summers with less rainwater are destroying crops in the Central Valley and killing trees in the Sierra Nevada mountains. This situation has the potential to create a food crisis. A drive down the US Interstate 5 freeway will show you signs exclaiming that the water crisis is real and that no water means no jobs.
It is important to recognize the difficulty of transitioning from a fossil fuel economy to a renewable energy economy. Thousands of Americans are employed in the coal, gas, and oil industries. Shifting to renewable energy poses a threat to these jobs and the quality of life of blue-collar workers. Many of these workers are already unemployed and voted for Mr. Trump because of his promise to bring back their jobs. These industry jobs are not secure because they are contingent on our supplies of fossil fuel domestically and abroad, which will not last indefinitely. When our fuel supplies are depleted, we will be forced to look for other sources of energy. Renewable clean energy in the form of solar and wind power is the future. Although it is costly to transition from fossil fuel energy to clean energy sources, investing in renewable energy is crucial for the United States’s long term survival as an economic powerhouse. It is understandable why industry workers support Mr. Trump when we consider how renewable energy will disrupt regional labor markets. For example, solar farms taking the place of coal mines are more likely to be located in the southwestern United States rather than coal-rich states like Wyoming, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Mr. Trump has vowed to protect American jobs. One of the ways he can do this is by supporting worker retraining, which would prepare workers in fossil fuel industries for the inevitable shift toward renewable energy.
Mr. Trump is currently in a unique position; his actions as president could either prove detrimental or beneficial to the environmental status of our nation and planet. Four years may not seem like a long time when speaking about the evolution of Earth, but environmental deregulation will have substantial consequences and rippling effects. The next generation will be forced to deal with the implications of climate change if it is allowed to continue unchecked. Droughts, forest fires, and hurricanes will become more severe. Clean air and water–which are essential for life–will be threatened. By delaying change now, future actions to fix the problems created by climate change will require more sacrifice by the public. Environmental regulations keep our air and water clean, which keeps us healthy and working. Healthy, working Americans strengthen our economy. Mr. Trump: the future of our environment is in your hands. Please, handle with care.
What can you do?
There are many things we can do to protect the environment and create change on as citizens. If you want to take action, here are some ways to do so:
- Inform your representatives. Arrange a meeting with or write a letter to your City Council or Congress member. Members of Congress are elected to represent your interests, so it is important to let them know what action you want to see.
- Do your part by conserving at home. Take shorter showers, don’t leave the sink running, and consume less plastic. Bike, walk or take public transit instead of driving in order to reduce carbon emissions. Invest in renewable energy by installing solar panels.
- Write letters to president. Like your Congressional representatives, the president is elected to serve the interests of the people. Make your voice heard by sending Mr. Trump an email or by writing him a letter.
- Talk about it with others. Have a discussion and inform your friends. Awareness is the first step in taking action.
- Protest! The Constitution upholds our right to peacefully assemble. Participating in protests is a powerful way to make sure the president hears your voice.