Trump, Pruitt and the EPA: Are we screwed?

Climate change is real: it isn’t even an argument worth having anymore. As the oceans get warmer and the average temperature of the world rises, to deny the impact of humans on the environment is a bold move. Climate change isn’t some distant danger, it’s an all-too-real matter of life and death.

Well, it is for those of us who live on planet Earth. I have no clue what planet President Trump is on.

It must be a pretty rad place, though! A world without increasingly acidic oceans? A world without impoverished people who feel the sting of climate change far more than we oblivious first-worlders? It’s an attractive little wonderland that Mr. Trump and his colleagues have fashioned for their supporters, but sadly, it’s just a fantasy. Climate change isn’t the made-in-China boogeyman that Trump insists it to be. But whatever, I sure hope Trump is nice and comfortable in whatever la la land he’s dreaming in. For the rest of us here in the real world, though, we can’t help but wonder — are we screwed?

The Trump administration not only asked the EPA to remove the climate change page from their website, but the administration also told EPA staff to prepare for executive orders that will reshape the agency (admin didn’t even say what the orders would be, only that there would be orders). After the page is removed from the EPA website, open research and data on the effects of climate change will disappear, instantly becoming less accessible to the public. Trump’s first executive order regarding the EPA will require the agency to review water regulations made by Obama to make sure that they aren’t harming the economy; officials at the EPA are waiting to receive more orders from Trump.

But wait, it gets worse: enter Scott Pruitt. The ex-attorney general of Oklahoma who filed more than a dozen lawsuits against the EPA is now the head of the EPA. And as if Hillary’s emails weren’t enough to deal with, now we’ve got to deal with this guy’s. According to The Hill, emails garnered under an open records law suggest that, under Pruitt’s wing, the EPA will be cooperating closely with proponents of fossil fuel. This cooperation is ridiculous and frightening: it’s like wildlife conservationists working with poachers to save endangered species. It egregiously undermines the mission of the EPA, which is “to protect human health and the environment — air, water and land.” Pruitt’s leadership could spell doom for the progress made under President Obama’s administration.

There is a glimmer of hope, though, and it lies in rural America. According to The Conversation, a survey of 200 governments in 11 states in the Great Plains region shows that, even in that shadow of Trump’s apathy, local red state leaders are worried about the effects of climate change. They are taking action against climate change in a novel way by describing the issue without labeling it “climate change.” For example, instead of being referred to as “climate change,” conservative leaders use terms like “energy savings” and “sustainability initiatives” while grappling with separate issues that are related to climate change. Since — for whatever reason — climate change is a polarizing topic, this way of taking action is a small but smart way to get climate change deniers to change their tune or support environmental conservation initiatives. Also, instead of treating climate change as a big, looming problem, rural leaders point to individual products of climate change, which makes the environmentalism-pill an easier one to swallow for climate change deniers. For example, instead of campaigning to “erase the stains of global warming,” they will aim to “improve the air and water quality” in their communities. Who wouldn’t rally behind that?
We can only hope that President Trump and Pruitt will take the same approach, but they probably won’t. During Trump’s time in the presidency, the fate of America’s ecosystems lie in the hands of local leaders who give a damn about the horrors humankind has inflicted on the Earth. Of course, the effects of climate change stretch far beyond American borders; the decisions made by Pruitt and the Trump administration will echo throughout the world’s environmental communities, and hopefully the international community has begun to brace itself. For now, and especially on campus, let’s remain vigilant in our protection and revitalization of our environment. With or without activism among U.S. citizens, however, the next four years will prove to be a weary trek for environmentalist communities across the globe.

Justin January is a College freshman from Atlanta, Georgia.