Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day 2017: We Have Met the Enemy and it is the U.S.

Earth Day is celebrated around the world but the election of Trump and Republican lawmakers changes everything. Earth Day has been celebrated every April for almost half a century, during that time we have made considerable progress. The high point occurred exactly one year ago, today when the leaders from 175 countries formally signed the historic Paris Agreement.

As we reflect on this somewhat somber Earth Day we would be wise to remember that the event was born in the U.S. and it has grown to become the largest civic observance in the world. These celebrations have contributed to a movement that ultimately gave birth to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act and several other environmental laws. It also contributed to the Paris Agreement, the most important climate agreement in human history.

However, the recent US election has changed everything. As our window of opportunity to act on climate change is getting ever smaller we must contend with a government that is at war with facts. Now rather than ratcheting up ambitions Trump has all but promised that U.S. emissions will increase. This Earth Day we cannot ignore the threat posed by Trump and the Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate.

It is entirely fitting that the biggest single event this Earth Day is the March for Science. If people embraced the value and veracity of science they would not have voted for Trump and they would overwhelmingly support action on climate change.

People voted for Trump in sufficient numbers for him to be president (albeit 3 million less votes than Hilary gleaned). Now the most ill-informed man ever to hold the office is president. This supports the contention that a critical mass of Americans eschew science. The GOP has been laying the groundwork for their anti-science agenda for years. They have been deriding science because they understand that while their support for the fossil fuel industry lines their pockets it is not in the best interest of Americans. GOP agenda is incompatible with policy derived from science.

The theme for this year's Earth Day celebrations are "Environmental & Climate Literacy". When it comes to the environment and climate change, U.S. voting patterns make it clear that a huge minority of Americans are far from being literate when it comes to environmental and climate issues, the truth is many are painfully ignorant.

Republican legislators, Trump and the people who voted for him are on the wrong side of history. They are at odds with the more than one billion people in nearly 195 countries that are standing up on this day in defense of our planet. As people celebrate the Earth Trump and the GOP are systematically removing environmental protections and ending climate action in the U.S. This administration is not interested in science or giving people access to a fact-based education.

To secure and hold power Trump and the GOP depend on obfuscation and manipulation. The deceitful duplicity of this administration is evident in an Earth Day tweet from Trump:

“Today on Earth Day, we celebrate our beautiful forests, lakes and land. We stand committed to preserving the natural beauty of our nation”

These words are at odds with their actions. This is environmental doublespeak similar to his address to Congress.  Trump and Republicans are systematically dismantling government agencies, eradicating environmental protections, and killing climate action in the U.S.  Trump is at war with the EPA, he has resurrected pipelines, ordered a review of vehicle mileage standards. The GOP are gutting environmental protections, trying to kill the EPA, and sell public lands

The subterfuge continues in an Earth Day press release from Trump, “My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks.” There is already a vast pool of research and it is being ignored by the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers.

The organizers of Earth Day 2017 encourage environmental and climate literacy teach-ins”. Sadly, legislators along with their president are the ones most in need of an education but they are also the least receptive. Although sane governance will one day return to the U.S. it may be too late.

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