The elephant in the room is destroying the planet

The elephant in the room is destroying the planet

By Michelle van Schouwen

I’ll start off just saying what anyone who knows me knows: I do not like Donald Trump. I believe he is a dangerous narcissist; too selfish, ignorant and cruel to lead our nation. I believe he is far less savvy than he believes he is, but that he is nevertheless a gifted con artist, a grifter who has amassed a doggedly loyal following among the ignorant, the hateful, the greedy, and perhaps worst, the great number of people who are not paying attention. I greatly fear he will win another term, one way and another, and continue creating chaos for the nation and world for another four years.

Which brings me to the elephant in the room. The longer Trump, his handlers, sponsors, bosses, and various winged monkeys remain in power, the worse our planet’s situation becomes. I refer here to the urgency of climate change and the need to move away from fossil fuels, plus the related need to retain and rebuild critical resources including clean water, clean air, open land, and a not-completely-poisoned environment.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrote in 2018 that we have about 12 years to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Centigrade (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). To accomplish this, we must meet the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement, a pact from which the United States under Trump has withdrawn. A dozen years – okay, now 11 – is not a long time to turn ourselves around and move in the right direction. Unfortunately, at the United States federal level, we are instead propelled in the wrong direction in terms of practical, legislative and commercial moves, as well as the “inspiration” coming from the president and his team.

-In December 2018, the U.S. joined Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in declining to “welcome” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report calling for drastic action to slow climate change. Trump administration officials instead strongly defended fossil fuel use and said that a rapid retreat from coal, oil and gas was unrealistic.

The Guardian and other media have reported that “extreme” fossil fuel investments have surged since Trump took office. For example, tar sands holdings doubled during Trump’s first year as president.

National Resources Defense Council writes that “fossil fuel production has been an unmitigated environmental disaster for our public lands and waters” and adds that, “the Trump administration is working overtime to open our oceans as well, regardless of the climate crisis or any demonstrable need.” The battle for specific public lands and waters continues daily, as a brief scan of the news makes clear.

-Trump’s disregard for the future of the environment extends to clean water and air, with ongoing attempts to substantially weaken the Clean Water Act and reconfigure the cost/benefit calculations for the Clean Air Act to assure it can be more easily gutted or reversed.

-Trump’s pro-industry EPA consistently reverses or removes environmental regulations that protect Americans from some of the damages from lead, insecticides, herbicides, asbestos, and other toxins.

-Similarly, the administration is steadily working to roll back automotive and truck fuel economy standards, even working to strip California of its own authority to establish state fuel economy standards.

-Any news or Twitter junkie knows that the president rails about the “hoax” of “global warming” and that a cold spell or blizzard sends him into a joyful rant of I-told-you-sos. In March 2019, during a two-hour speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Trump mocked wind power by incorrectly claiming that, “When the wind stops blowing, that’s the end of your electric.”  In November 2018, he said, “People like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily such believers.” Unfortunately, this president’s disinclination to listen to experts, be they scientists, generals or intelligence officials, continues to lead us into various perils, not the least of which is a degraded planet on a short timeline for meaningful recovery.

So, there’s our elephant. What do “We the People” do about it? For starters, we do not remain silent as the clock ticks. Talk to people you know, to raise awareness. Write to your elected officials at the federal, state and local levels. Support environmental groups with your time and your money. Protest. Create your own environmental standards, which may include driving less and in a more efficient vehicle, eating less meat and using fewer products that damage and degrade the environment.

And vote. Pro-environment. Every single time you can.

It’s our planet, after all, and we can’t let the misguided and shortsighted rule the day. And, hey, even the elephant will benefit.

About the image: “New NASA global data set combines historical measurements with data from climate simulations using the best available computer models to provide forecasts of how global temperature (shown here) and precipitation might change up to 2100 under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.” Credit: NASA.