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The Environment in light of a Trump Presidency

Originally Posted on January 12, 2017

The Earth Initiative is all about our Environment, the Climate Crisis and Our Amazing World.

The Imperative 

It would be impossible for us to move with too much alacrity on so many fronts; the Arctic is melting, we have lost 50 % of our wildlife over the past 40 years, cities in India and China are approaching unlivable given their smog, our Oceans are growing more acidic, ....

All of this has been happening in a setting that let us be scared, and hopeful. Clean power supplied almost all of Germany’s power demand for the first time on a Sunday in May , California is home to the largest geothermal, wind, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic power plants in the world, President Obama create the world's largest Marine Preserve in August of 2016 only to be topped by the new world largest off the Antarctic in October - and of course there were the Paris Accords.

Then, the election.

Donald Trump has called global warming a “hoax,” insisted while campaigning for the Republican nomination that he’s “not a big believer in man-made climate change,” and suggested that “nobody really knows” if climate change exists.

A disaster. Just as the US had emerged as a leader in protecting for future generations - we  throw it in reverse (from the Federal Government Perspective at least - more about that below)

Soon after the election, the president-elect flashed some surprisingly hopeful signs.

He met with President Obama and left the impression that he was inclined to keep critical aspects of Obamacare - including protecting people with "prior conditions" (we have a dear on with Cystic Fibrosis - this one strikes close to home).

He and Ivanka (hope here? - her generation more inclined to believe in science?) met with Al Gore to discuss     . Mr Gore's take away: "I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect. It was a sincere search for areas of common ground... I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued, and I'm just going to leave it at that"

But as the Trump Cabinet has rolled out the quote that comes to mind is more the one from Michael Bloomberg; “I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one”. Many of the key selections who will have the chance to have an impact on our environment have a history of taking in-your-face, anti-environment stands.

On Climate and the Environment, we really do not have the luxury to wait and see!

We have ground that needs to be gained on many fronts, but one measure surely is that we need a roadmap that puts our fossil fuel era in our rear view mirror.

Note: The fossil fuel era has been, on balance, a tremendous boon for we humans. That era is about to dwindle, and come to an end - or we will.


About the candidates for the Trump Cabinet

The Environmental Protection Agency - Scott Pruitt

The Choice of Pruitt, Oklahoma's Attorney General, is indicative of the affront that the incoming administration has with the very concept of protecting the environment. This is a team that is closely aligned with, many have profited from the fossil fuel industry that the EPA is responsible for regulating.

David Goldston, the director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council had this to say, "As far as we can tell there’s literally nothing in his record showing any indication of protecting the environment in any way that matters."

Pretty stark

On Climate: “That debate is far from settled,” Pruitt said in May. “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”

The truth is, and Scott Pruitt knows it, is that the overwhelming consensus amongst scientists around the world is that global warming in upon us, and the primary driver is the human-driven spike in the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere - and the effects that has on out oceans.


The Energy Department - Rick Perry

This is the same department that Rick Perry wanted to scrap. What Trump & Perry are driving at here, is a totally unregulated US energy sector.

It is noteworthy that Perry famously forgot which Department he wanted to scrap, he could remember there were three ... ""I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: Commerce, Education, and — what's the third one there? Let's see,"

I wish this was funny


The Secretary of the Interior - Ryan Zinke

Ryan Zinke was a football player and geology major at the University of Oregon, spent nearly a quarter century as a Navy seal, before entering the Montana Senate in 2009, and the US House last year.

I will lean on Ben Wallace-Wells piece in the New Yorker, to provide the backdrop:

  • Zinke’s perspective on public lands has been moderate, at least for the post-Tea Party era. He does not favor selling them off (though he would like to see more extraction). He is convinced that the climate is changing (though he has been more equivocal about the degree of human culpability). “You know, if you go up to Glacier Park and you have your lunch on one of the glaciers, you will see the glacier recede while you eat lunch,” Zinke said last year. For generations, the Interior Department has worked amid the tension between the promise of preservation and the promise of jobs, emphasizing conservation during Democratic Administrations and extraction during Republican ones. But those pressures are more poignant now, when the bleakness of rural places has deepened, when the shale towns provide examples of how a boom can grip a desolate place, and the land is the vector for hope.

Zinke brings a view from the American West - which has always differed from the big cities and back East. But something to work with here.

For the full article: http://www.newyorker.com/news/benjamin-wallace-wells/ryan-zinke-donald-trumps-pick-for-interior-secretary-and-the-rising-american-land-movements


The Agriculture Department - tbd (and that is causing concern ...)

Like fossil fuels, the era of Big Ag and the vast mono culture (single crop) plantings too, will need to pass.

For some insight into where we need to go, and why, see:


Watch for more on this from me.

It is unlikely, at the Federal level we will gain any ground on this under Trump - but the grass roots movement is already under way. May it be.


The Commerce Department - Wilbur Ross

The Commerce Department would be off my radar for this article, except that it contains and funds the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration - NOAA. NOAA does great and important work, focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere.

See: www.noaa.gov

Wilbur Ross is a friend and fellow billionaire of Donald Trump. Ross has long railed against bad trade deals and the decline of manufacturing jobs in America. He made his fortune mostly by taking over distressed companies and turning them for a profit.

It seems unlikely that NOAA will be high on his agenda, and that his time and attention will be directed towards forging and amending trade deals - ad finding ways to boost American manufacturing.


The Secretary of State - Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson is, of course, the CEO of Exxon Mobil.

The Secretary of State is America's top statesman, in effect our ambassador to the world.

The Climate has risen to a level of concern around the world, that it has become a key diplomatic issue and concern.

As background: as chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson admitted that climate change is real. In January 2009, he said the company was in favor of a carbon tax. And a few years later, Exxon endorsed the Paris Agreement.

In his current Senate hearing for the position, Senator Tom Udall, a Democrat of New Mexico, asked Tillerson to share his “personal view” of climate change. Tillerson replied that after 20 years as a scientist and engineer, he had concluded that “the risk of climate change does exist.” He also believed “action should be taken”

Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked “Do you believe that human activity, based on science, is contributing?” Tillerson answered “The increase in greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is having an effect. Our ability to predict that effect is very limited,”

This is not as bad as the president-elect who is against the Paris Agreement and a climate denier - "a hoax", but "our ability to predict that effect is very limited" is far from where we need to be, and meant to be disheartening, discouraging.

Take heart. Have courage.


The Education Department - Betsy DeVos

Normally (ah, that word) I would not have included this office in this article. But these times are not normal, and in this ear of science denial and fake information - the role of education becomes all the more critical.

Although Betsy DeVos is from a fundamentalist Christian background, those who know her told the Washington Post she was unlikely to focus on hot-button issues like creationism or evolution, calling her a “free-enterprise conservative” concerned about the public good. So it seems likely that the science curriculum will be spared.


Let's not go here

I've attached a snapshot of Donald Trump's yacht, The Princess.

I have this nightmare vision of Trump Cruise Lines plying the open Arctic Ocean, while coastal cities around the world are flooded and mostly gone.

From the deck he is Tweeting his line from the Presidential debates, "that's business".


Where is the hope

With Trump as President and Republicans holding the Seated and the House - at the Federal Level, it seems like effective action on Environmental Protections and Climate are likely to be blocked.

Our best hope there is to blunt and slow and shame their retreat from the gains we have made at that level. And to join together around our birthright, the love of the natural world.

But that is just the federal level.

There is a big wheel already turning, and we should keep out shoulder to that wheel, keep that momentum going, gain momentum, together.

We will be exploring this in depth in the weeks and years ahead, and taking action as we go, but here are some seeds of hope:

  • California, now the worlds sixth largest economy, has declared their independence and their defiance on issues that include their environment and the worlds Climate
  • Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, NIKE, Inc., Procter & Gamble, Salesforce, Starbucks, Steelcase, Voya Financial, and Walmart joined RE100 in September 2016, pledging to source 100% of their electricity from renewable energy to reduce CO2 emissions and seize the business benefits.
  • Burlington, Vermont, Aspen, Colorado, and Greensburg, Kansas, are the first three cities in the country that can say they’re totally powered by renewable energy. Many more have pledged to join that list
  • Sustainability Departments have popped up in States, Cities, Companies and Colleges and Universities around the country, finding and sharing innovative and creative ways to reduce waste and get more efficient
  • As of March, 2016, there were 44,000 clean energy workers in Indiana
  • Texas used wind to generate 18,000 cumulative megawatts of electricity in 2015 - enough to power close to 3 million homes.
  • The MacArthur Foundation is supporting the Five Great Forests Initiative, which aims to build a global movement to protect the world’s most precious forests.

    Located in the Amazon, Congo Basin, tropical Southeast Asia and Melanesia, boreal North America and boreal Russia, the forests are regarded as irreplaceable for their potential contribution to reducing climate change mitigation and preserving biodiversity.

  • Our nation's move away from coal cannot be reversed - the economics are the driver

  • The Ross Sea Marine Protected Area, the worlds largest Marine Preserve was created off Antarctica in 2016

  •  Hawaii is now home to an Ocean Reserve twice the size of Texas

  • The Cubs won the world series  :- )

So there is hope.

 We at the Earth Initiative will be following the trends and pointing to actions that we all can take - in our homes, our neighborhoods, our towns and cities - in our region.

Join in - just create an account and share your ideas




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