Can the Environment Survive the United States of Trump?
By Nicholas McCallum - Staff Writer
News agencies, social media, and cafe conversations have abounded with what this next era of US leadership will look like, but with the president-elect's penchant for back-pedalling, one can only speculate. To paraphrase John Oliver, Mr. Trump was either being truthful regarding the proposals he seeks to implement or he was lying about them, and this uncertainty surrounding his true intentions has left both supporters and critics alike in a state of limbo. Already we've seen him switch gears on the US/Mexico border wall, Obamacare and the prosecution of his rival, Hilary Clinton, so what can onlookers expect from the United States of Trump?
While anti-intellectual sentiment sweeps across the country, his cabinet of appointed “officials” continues to fill out, resembling those white-wigged Puritans (in both looks and ideology) who sailed over on the Mayflower centuries ago, making it harder and harder to find a silver lining if ever there was one. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump has been a staunch climate change denier, “who calls global warming a 'bullshit' Chinese-invented hoax,” and has threatened to pull America out of the Paris Agreement, raising many an alarm amongst those in various scientific communities.
In concordance with his boorish campaign rhetoric, Trump recently assigned one of the nation's most vocal opponents of climate change, Myron Ebell, to lead the transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a federal organization that helps ensure “national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information.” A political theorist with no background in science whatsoever, Ebell's longtime agenda to dispel the “myths” behind global warming makes him a dangerously unqualified (and biased) individual for his recent station.
As head of the Competitive Enterprise Agency, an organization funded by the coal industry, Ebell, according to his LinkedIn profile, “oppose[s] policies based on the beliefs that prosperity threatens the environment, [and] that the answer to every environmental challenge is more regulation.” And with the coal industry being threatened to suffer some major losses from regulations set forth by the EPA's policy - known as the Clean Power Plan - the implications of this “transition” become a little more transparent.
Drastic reversals on the climate front come at a point when the world can least afford them. Never mind that over 97% of scientists have concluded that global warming is due to human influence, but like Time Magazine reported, “as the world’s second-biggest carbon emitter after China, U.S. inaction will cause major damage to global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and keep warming beneath 2 C (3.6 F).” Once a leading authority on the importance of scaling back our reliance on fossil fuels and seeking alternate forms of energy, the Trump administration's archaic sense of nationalism and isolationist attitude looks to pull America away from global responsibility, something which the soon-to-be-president is well versed in.
Apart from the havoc unchecked carbon emissions will wreak on our planet - already, scientists have reported that the Bramble Cay melomys have gone extinct in the Great Barrier Reef due to global warming - wildlife will continue to bear the brunt of human interference in other ways. For instance, should Trump actually proceed with his cockamamie proposal of building a wall along the Mexican border, “it would cut off vital migratory routes and habitat for jaguars, ocelots, desert bighorn sheep, black bears, and many other species.” But I'm sure those animals are mostly drug addicts and “kitty” grabbers who are stealing jobs from hardworking American animals looking to make an honest buck.
Of course, I'm being flippant, but that is precisely the kind of thought process which has taken root in American consciousness, where falsities seem to have prevailed over facts; as if the age of information has given way to the anti-enlightenment.
At a very basic level, I sympathize with supporters of Trump insofar as their need for change is concerned, however, I disagree with their refusal to educate themselves on how to properly bring about said change. With the world's population nearing unsustainable proportions at 7.5 billion people, Trump tapped into an underlying, visceral fear that reinvigorated an “us versus them” mentality. But if sea levels continue to rise due to neglect and ignorance, there will be less land to support our increasing numbers and we will see a worldwide migration that would make the Syrian refugee crisis pale in comparison .
So, will America refuse entry to millions of potential environmental refugees? People who will find themselves displaced not because of war or rebellion, but because one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses decided to bury its head in the sand and shrug off responsibility? That their benefits outweighed the costs?
Now is not the time to be manipulated into complacency, because when it comes to the environment and welfare of this planet and its inhabitants, there is no “them,” only “us.”