December is a time for one last look over the shoulder, to take stock of what has been and where the new year can take us.
When reflecting on 2017, it is impossible to think about the fight to keep the planet safe for future generations — without acknowledging the overarching reality of the Trump administration.
Climate deniers and big business interests have entered the halls of power.
These people have worked to dismantle the government and deregulate previous legislation put into play to protect the health of American citizens from egregious polluters.
Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria each brought their own brand of devastation. As Category 4 storms, they underscored the sea level rise conversation, which is being blithely dismissed by current leaders despite the fact that key coastal American cities are at risk.
The lack of adequate response, not to mention Trump’s insulting mixed-messages to the residents of Puerto Rico, were a reminder of both Trump’s insensitivity and lack of crisis management abilities.
No matter how many reports have been released, the Trump administration is going down the path of reversing environmental safeguards, opening up public lands to fossil fuel companies, and denying that we had a huge hand in creating climate change and it’s up to us to fix it.
The EPA, under the reign of Administrator Scott Pruitt, has become an instrument of damage. Ten Democratic senators sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office in November, in response to Pruitt edging out advisory panel scientists and replacing them with “experts” working for chemical and fuel companies.
Although Pruitt’s appointment could qualify as the most outrageous environmental occurrence of 2016 (OK, pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords is stiff competition), there are plenty more. Basically, they all stem from Pruitt surrounding himself with political hacks whose primary qualifications are financial ties to dark money, coal, oil, gas, and chemical interests. Meanwhile, longtime employees of the EPA find themselves silenced, overruled and many have had to quit to protect their ethics.
Pruitt is working feverishly to axe the signature climate legislation of President Obama — the Clean Power Plan. The EPA has nixed an action to ban chlorpyrifos, believed to cause neurological damage in children. His latest outrage is to propose the repeal of emission standards for trucks that use diesel engines. We had members present to testify at an EPA hearing on this backward move.
Pruitt is the ringmaster in the current EPA mess, but he’s only part of the problem. Another key cog in the wheel are the elected officials who support his actions, from Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — who vigorously pushed to include Arctic drilling as part of an already unpopular tax bill. She stated it would “strengthen our energy security and create new wealth.”
This brings us to 2018, and the role the American public is poised to take in a mid-term election year.
Climate marches and forums are on the agenda. When Trump relinquished America’s role in promoting climate action, others stepped in to fill the gap.
Whether it’s mayors or states creating news models for renewable standards, American citizens understand that it is up to them to get the job done.
The country may have survived 2017, but our children deserve much, much more than just survival. They deserve a healthy future. So look to 2018 to be a year of activism and action.