The Quiet Issue
One of my dearest friends, LL, loves the Earth and has spent her life protecting it. She was a biology teacher, a wilderness guide, a camp director, a leader in sustainable gardening, chair of her local Sierra Club chapter — I could go on and on and on with her credentials. Suffice it to say LL has devoted her life to the health of this planet.
On a very personal level I had the amazing experience of traveling to the Boundary Waters with her three times to canoe and camp in the pristine and primitive wilderness of northern Minnesota along the border of Canada. Where I might have wandered into the woods and simply left my toilet paper or floss on the ground, she was adamant we bury our remains and leave as little footprint as possible. Those weeks in the rough country were some of the most memorable experiences I have ever had in my life. I have always appreciated nature but with LL, I experienced its wonders at a totally different level — a sacred level.
With the Trump election, she and her fellow members of the Sierra Club worried about his policies. She was right to.
· Less than an hour after Trump took the oath of office on Friday, the White House’s webpage on climate change disappeared from the Executive Branch’s main site.
· The Trump administration froze new scientific grants at the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA gives out billions of dollars every year to fund research and projects throughout the country. These grants help states pay to track air pollution, restore watersheds, or support researchers studying various environmental problems.
· On Jan. 24, Trump reportedly also banned members of the EPA from making social media updates. The Agricultural Research Service was also directed not to release photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and other social media content as was the Department of the Interior.
· On Jan. 24, Trump issued a memorandum that ordered moving forward with the Dakota Access Pipeline, and reviving the Keystone XL pipeline that President Obama rejected in 2015. Tribal and environmental advocates say the Dakota pipeline will threaten the reservation’s water source. Both pipelines carry the risk of spills and perpetuate our dependence of fossil fuels.
· Trump’s pick for head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is pro-industry and anti-regulation. He refers to himself as the “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda”.
· Trump has long denied, or at least questioned, the nearly unanimous agreement among scientists that human activity is causing rapid shifts in the Earth’s climate. At one point, he called the phenomenon a “hoax” propagated by China to make U.S. manufacturing less competitive.
· He has also brought into question whether the U.S. will adhere to the United Nation’s landmark climate agreement, which went into effect late last year. Trump has indicated that the U.S. could withdraw from the accord.
In this moment Trump is using the strategy of overwhelm to cement his political agenda. In his first weeks in office he issued Executive Orders that direct health agencies to begin scaling back the Affordable Care Act, issued a Muslim travel ban, restructured the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council, authorized the building of a U.S.-Mexico border wall; stripped federal grant money to sanctuary cities; hired 5,000 more Border Patrol agents; ended “catch-and-release” policies for illegal immigrants; and reinstated local and state immigration enforcement partnerships. There is more but I can’t write them because I feel overwhelmed. Again that is Trump’s strategy — to overwhelm and paralyze the citizens of this country.
What concerns me though in this moment is that in this din, a quiet issue is being lost. This man who believes climate change is a hoax is encouraging Republicans to take steps that will destroy our environment. Sadly the U.S. coal industry rejoiced after the Senate voted this week to repeal a rule that limited companies from dumping mining waste in streams, saying the move could halt the sector’s decline. The Interior Department said the rule protected 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, preventing coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby waters. Really, does anyone believe coal mining is going to make a big comeback? Folks, you have been duped.
At any rate, my dear friend in her distress wrote an editorial for our local paper. It is beautiful. I am including it below for her words are impeccable and filled with the light. Here are her thoughts on our beautiful planet:
I invite you to look around. At the perky chickadees. For the illusive great horned owls. At the tall stately oak trees. At the sparkling snowflakes, each unique. At the bright-eyed children who are fascinated with a natural world that we are sometimes too busy to appreciate. We live on the most amazing, wonder-full life-sustaining planet, but it is so easy to take it for granted, and in so doing, to deny our responsibility to care for the trees, for the creatures, and for every part of our natural world.
That responsibility is what has me so concerned about President Trump and about his choice of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. We’ve made huge progress in the past forty years cleaning up our air and water, protecting public lands and wildlife, and making environmental protection a part of the moral compass of this country.
I’m concerned because President Trump and Scott Pruitt propose fewer environmental regulations on industries and deny human responsibility for climate change, despite the fact that 97% of the world’s climate scientists tell us that human activities are contributing to it — that the rate of climate change is far, far greater than can be accounted for by natural cycles.
In order to avoid catastrophic damage to this earth, I believe we need to curb our energy-consumptive lifestyles and move from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. That’s not easy for any of us, but the alternative is to stick our heads in the sand — -and that sandbar may soon end up under water from the rise in sea levels predicted from rising temperatures.
I’ve spent much of my life teaching children and adults to appreciate nature and to care for this earth by making environmentally-friendly choices which save energy and produce less waste. I believe the small acts add together to produce significant impacts. I shy from confrontation and have not been politically active before. However, I feel called to action by the current situation. I believe President Trump has a moral obligation to lead the campaign to protect our air and water and land.
I write today to encourage my fellow citizens to contact President Trump and tell him we insist that he pay attention to environmental protection and to our responsibility for climate change. We need him to become informed and to act on our behalf. We want to live in a clean, green, healthy world and we need a president who helps make that happen.
LL is wise and yet she speaks to a quiet issue: our natural resources, our environment, our planet — we take all this for granted. We assume all will be well. We forget that the Trump administration is actively working to dismantle regulations that protect our environment. So what am I suggesting we do about it?
Well for those who are analytical, you are going to love this suggestion. Please go to The League of Conservation Voters: https://www.lcv.org/. One of their tabs is a lifetime score for every Senator and member of the House of Representatives as per their voting record with respect to legislation and the environment. I checked all eighteen House Representatives for my state and two Senators. I was shocked. Democrats’ lifetime ratings ranged from79% — 97%. Republicans ranged from 3% — 7%. The Democrats received postcards from me thanking them. The Republicans received postcards expressing disappointment and a promise their record would become a re-election issue in 2018.
I think many of us are looking for our “core issue” — that which moves us to action. For those who love this planet, go to The League of Conservation Voters; see how your elected officials rate on the issues; start to relentlessly pursue them to do better. Join the Sierra Club. Pay attention to their “calls for action”. I believe there is going to be a series of Marches for the Planet on April 29th to let Trump know Americans care about Mother Earth. Go to http://www.exploringabroad.com/travel-resources/environmental-organizations and look through the list of environmental organizations; one might capture you heart; join them and become involved in their actions.
There is still time to let your senators know you want them to vote NO to the nomination of Scott Pruitt for Director of the EPA. Call their office today. If they don’t answer the phone, leave a voice mail; if the box is full write them an email. Reach out to all your friends and have them do the same. It is a long shot but the stakes are high and we are being called to act. It is important for Trump and his cronies to know there is a huge population of citizens that do not agree with him on environmental policies and will protest every step of the way. Quiet people love the Earth, but now is the time to roar and move into action to protect her. Thank you, LL, for being her loving guardian and for leading the way one more time.