Although the single most important issue facing the human species today, climate change, remained invisible throughout the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, president-elect Donald Trump has huge plans for rolling back any positive environmental progress that was made under President Obama’s candidacy. The American people just elected a man who continuously lied to them, claiming climate change was a ‘hoax’ created by the Chinese government. Now we’ll have to rest in our cold bed of mistakes for the next four years as a ‘businessman’ inherits a government that was already struggling to take action on climate change.
Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, told the Washington Post that the damage of Trump’s victory ‘will be measured in geologic time.’ As if that’s not apocalyptic enough, Trump has already laid out an agenda for his first months in office. Within just 100 days of his candidacy, he has vowed to cancel ‘billions of payments to U.N. climate change programs,’ and completely abolish energy and drilling restrictions, plunging back into outdated and harmful energy reserves like oil and coal. He will appoint a man who once called climate change ‘bullshit’ to lead our Environmental Protection Agency and pull out of the Paris Agreement altogether, a global initiative to reduce carbon emissions that the United States, proudly, had a huge role in creating.
Trump will move forward with the Keystone XL Pipeline, a proposed project that will span more than 1,200 miles, crossing six states from Canada to Texas and move 800,000 barrels of carbon-heavy petroleum per day. After being tossed around for seven years, President Obama eventually rejected the project on the basis that the United States is meant to be an environmental leader, and building a pipeline while there are plenty of other reliable, renewable energy resources out there would be, at the very least, extremely hypocritical. Not to mention the Keystone Pipeline will jeapordize the safety and drinking water of every town it passes through — because, guess what, pipelines always leak. The United States already has 2.5 million miles of them.
Trump also plans to introduce the American Energy and Infrastructure Act into Congress, a piece of legislation that would leverage ‘private-public partnerships through tax incentives.’In a world where large corporations like Monsanto and the Koch Brothers seem to have more power than America’s voting public, that sounds pretty terrifying.
And these are just Trump’s hopes and dreams when it comes to using the environment. Other articles will need to be written about his plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, break up thousands of undocumented immigrant families through deportation, build a ‘beautiful wall’ and ban Muslims from entering the United States.
In partnership with climate change-denying Republicans, perhaps the most distasteful energy plan that Trump has is to open up federal lands to oil and gas drilling, grazing and coal mining.
Federal land. That means national parks, forests, and any other part of the 640 million acres of public land that was purchased by or donated to the United States government in the name of conservation.
In my home state of Maine, nearly 90,000 acres near Baxter State Park was recently donated to the federal government by Roxanne Quimby, co-founder of Burt’s Bees. Quimby’s donation was made with good intentions and was 20 years in the making, but a massive amount of Mainers begged her not to make it and even boycotted her business because of this very concern: that the future of her land would no longer be controlled by the Maine people. That someday, the United States government might destroy that land in order to further its own agenda. That day might come within the next four years. And when it does, it will be all the more disappointing because even in these trying times, under the control of a Tea Party governor, Maine has remained an environmentally-minded place. We don’t have oil refineries, large-scale factory farms, or coal mines.
A Republican-controlled House, Senate and presidency may mean an end to conservation in an era when public land, and the beauty, clean air, and drinking water it provides, is more precious than ever. Under a Trump presidency, we should expect to see catastrophy — on the level of the BP oil spill and the Flint, Michigan water crisis — and the people directly affected by these oncoming tragedies should at least be able to visit a national park or protected piece of land without being reminded of the very greed that put their safety and livelihood on the line.
Just like environmental activism was imperative when George W. Bush took office 16 years ago, it is imperative now. We can continue on with our progress if we remain focused and vocal. If you are an intelligent person who believes climate change is real, you’re not alone. Most Americans do. If you have any time or money to give, consider investing it into organizations like Climate Solutions and 350.org.