Sustainability in Our New Political Climate
One of the most controversial and terrifying things about president-elect Donald Trump is that he has openly admitted to not believing global warming exists. A president who rejects scientific proof about a significant threat to our country and our lives can be very dangerous.
As a result, the future of our environment is in question. Sustainability is arguably not a very high priority in Trump’s mind. What will the next few years look like in terms of this important issue? Trump has not made clear his exact plans, but he has expressed promises to make certain moves once in the White House that will very much affect the sustainability efforts set in motion by President Obama.
Fossil fuels vs. clean energy
Trump has promised to increase production of oil and gas in the US through digging, mining and fracking — all environmental dangers that can potentially be phased out and replaced with clean energy, like wind and solar. President Obama made many strides in switching to clean and renewable energy that president-elect Trump will likely not continue.
President-elect Trump also wants to heavily cut federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, wildlife protection, pollution and other regulations meant to protect the people and the planet. His hope is to do a complete overhaul of the federal regulations and reduce the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The deeply controversial Dakota Access pipeline to transport oil will probably see victory under Trump’s administration, as will other fossil fuel infrastructure projects.
Overall, a Trump administration will focus mostly on supporting fossil fuel expansion and refusing to acknowledge the burden these products are placing on the environment.
Paris climate agreement
One of President Obama’s signature accomplishments was being a part of the Paris agreement, the landmark agreement between more than 190 nations to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to stop global warming. Trump will likely pull out of this agreement when he is president, which will have major repercussions for the environment.
The US pulling out of the Paris agreement will hurt the efforts of nations that are trying to do something about global warming, as well as sending a very negative message to the rest of the world. Doing so fully will take four years, however, which means a change in leadership in 2020 could undo Trump’s damage.
Trump very much likes the idea of investing money into our public transportation systems — especially trains. He has repeatedly compared the US to China in terms of their mass transportation and commented that the US is like a third-world country when compared to China’s mass transportation abilities.
Infrastructure was a huge platform for Trump throughout his campaign — he promised to rebuild roads and bridges and invest in public transportation. Interestingly, the Republican Party does not exactly line up with Trump in this way. The party wants most of the funds to go towards fixing roads, not towards mass transit initiatives, and they want the private sector to take care of public transportation.
Commuting to and from work is a large part of many Americans lives, so the decision about where to send money for transportation is an important one. Also, mass transit affects the environment in many ways. The more people we have on trains and buses, the fewer people will need to drive — and in turn add to environmental pollution, especially in major cities. Public transportation is also important for those who can’t afford cars, and many people rely on mass transit to get where they need to go.
What can we do?
Overall, it doesn’t seem like it will be a very good four years for the environment and sustainability. Much of the progress made by President Obama could be partially or totally reversed. For those of us who are concerned about the future of our environment and even our own health, there are some ways we can help make sustainability a priority.
Probably the most effective thing you can do is join a local organization committed to protecting the environment and sustainability efforts. Becoming involved with the actual political process will have the most obvious effect, and may influence real change.
You can also contact your state senators by phone or email to express your thoughts and concerns about the environment. Get a bunch of friends and family to call within a short period of time to send a stronger message.
Some smaller things that you can do to help the environment in small but meaningful ways is buying locally grown food, eating less meat, engaging in ridesharing or public transportation, recycling and using clean energy in your home. If everybody took these small steps, the world would become a much more sustainable environment.
Sustainability is no doubt a very important issue, whether Donald Trump thinks so or not. Become informed about what’s happening in Washington and take steps to protect the environment that your children and grandchildren will grow up in.