Environmental Progress or Regress?
An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant
In the past eight years, global society has made great strides towards a more environmentally conscious international community. Just recently in 2016, 131 countries of diverging ideologies and backgrounds came together to sign the Paris Agreement to combat climate change and adapt to its effects. Yet, as President Donald Trump’s positions have been introduced over the past several weeks, the environmental progress the Paris Agreement represents seems threatened at best. Highlighting Trump’s direction for environmental policy, two particular Trump cabinet selections have ignited a spark of panic: Myron Ebell and Scott Pruitt.
Myron Ebell was chosen as an environmental advisor to Trump and is part of the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The concern is that Myron Ebell – a man who questions the validity of climate change – has an imperatively influential role on what path the EPA will now take. Ebell hopes to utilize his power in the EPA in order to “undo…regs that are very harmful to our economy” showing no concern for the environmental degradation our current economy creates (Fountain 2016). Instead, Ebell plans to use the EPA as a way to protect fossil-fuel industries, which makes sense as his organization is partially financed by the coal industry (Fountain 2016).
Analogously, Scott Pruitt has been nominated to run the EPA, but seems to lack an understanding of the reality of climate change. Before being elected to run the EPA, Pruitt had sued the EPA a myriad of times for its ‘harsh’ regulations for pollutions, such as smog (Dennis 2017). With an influential role in the EPA, Pruitt plans to alleviate the pressure and regulations President Obama had applied to fossil-fuel companies amongst many other things (Dennis 2017).
With Ebell and Pruitt both holding the key to environmental progress – or regression – it seems as if we are leaving the foxes to guard the henhouse. If Trump’s presidency has demonstrated anything thus far, it is that anything can happen. Predictions are all we are currently able to do. In the name of extrapolating, however, there is a dire future we could potentially move towards if trends continue in the current direction.
Trump’s decision to expedite both the Keystone and Dakota pipelines cast aside eight years of struggle by environmental justice movements. These pipelines, amongst many other decisions of Trump, will lead to an increased reliance upon coal and oil, and the avoidance of renewable energies. Nevertheless, as the interests of big oil and coal companies (and all who profit with them) are put before our ecosystem, health and wellbeing, increased pollution is but one of many problems we face.
If this trend towards a government uninterested in environmental issues continues, we risk the chance of fostering a younger generation uneducated and uneducated and unconcerned about the environment. On a grander scale, we jeopardize our role as one of the world’s leading superpowers. By going back on the Paris Agreement, alliances could be torn and threatened, creating a global society riddled with strife. Furthermore, as a world leader we should be acting as a role model. Instead we are going back on our word and possibly encouraging other countries to follow suit and to abandon collective action on this urgent global danger. In doing so, our environment will effectively continue to be destroyed until our resources are depleted and our ecosystems are run dry.
On the other hand, the selection of Ebell, Pruitt and others might galvanize individuals to take progress into their own hands. Since the election of Donald Trump, protests and marches have erupted globally. When there are this many people fighting for the future of our planet and ourselves, it seems as if, although not ideal, this situation is not unbeatable. Until the future of our environmental movement is clear, however, it is important we strive to make change at an individual and community level.
Dennis, Brady. “Scott Pruitt, longtime adversary of EPA, confirmed to lead the agency.” The Washington Post, Feb. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/02/17/scott-pruitt-long-time-adversary-of-epa-confirmed-to-lead-the-agency/?utm_term=.5674cb1b165d.
Fountain, Henry. “Trump’s Climate Contrarian: Myron Ebell Takes On the E.P.A.” The New York Times, 11 Nov. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/11/12/science/myron-ebell-trump-epa.html.