“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” 

             —Ansel Adams 

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can not eat money.”

             —Chief Seattle

It felt like a second D-Day last week — D for the hard-earned victory of the better half of Democracy, and decency, and not despondency, destruction, delinquency, despair and division. It was the week we could have lost the world — the Earth, the air, the water and the children, the future essentially. Getting and spending way beyond our means, we have been laying waste to the environment for a while now, but never more than during the past four years. Between an unprecedented election in a country laid low by an unseen microscopic enemy of life and the fateful day when the U.S. left the Paris climate accord, would we ever return to our senses?

Will we regain some ballast, some measure of coherence and sanity? The divisions run through our country like a great rift from the shores of Anchorage all the way to Miami Beach. The country is adrift and politically perhaps irreparably so. But one thing is sure, we could have lost the world that day. The malaise in America runs deep but the environmental abuse and misuse of power cannot be allowed to poison future generations. 

What kind of leader would revoke, repeal and repel 100 environmental rules meant to safeguard the health of a country and by extension safeguard this part of the world? What kind of environmental illiteracy would urge, prompt, exhort such madness? Except if one were in total cahoots with only oil and gas. In four brief years, a certain administration was invested in and vested in abrogating everything that supports life. The EPA carried out these famed rollbacks as if the American populace counted for naught, as if future generations were mere abstractions or distractions on a balance sheet. The very words used, “We have fulfilled President Trump’s promises to provide certainty for states, tribes, and local governments, delivering on President Trump’s commitment to return the agency to its core mission: providing cleaner air, water and land to the American people.”

While few rollbacks have been struck down in court, the mere thought that these were even contemplated underscores a pure usurpation of power. They were not implemented for quality of life or life itself but for money and the elite industrial class.

The administration wants to roll back stricter tailpipe emissions and fuel economy and greenhouse standards, and withdraw from Obama-era rules limiting mercury emissions, replace the Clean Power Plan, cancel methane reductions, repeal Clinton-era rules that would limit toxic emissions, revise rules that would safeguard communities from pollution from power plants, weaken rules protecting air pollution in national parks, weaken rules for plants that burn waste coal for electricity, and relax rules to prevent hydrofluorocarbon emissions from air conditioners and refrigerators. It has directed agencies to stop Obama-era calculations of social cost of carbon, withdrawn guidance from agencies to include greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews, and revoked an Obama order to cut gas emissions by 40 percent over 10 years. It withdrew a rule preventing pollutants at sewage plants, eliminated Obama-era methane emissions standards for oil and gas facilities, made significant cuts in two major monuments in Utah, lifted Obama’s freeze on new coal leases on public lands, finalized plans to open up Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to drilling, approved the Dakota Access pipeline, and rescinded water pollution regulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands. ... I could go on. 

The last I checked the Gettysburg address was about a “government of the people, by the people, shall not perish from the Earth,” unless woefully neglected and willfully abused beyond recognition. The environmental strategies, or lack thereof, affects teachers, farmers, workers, scientists, immigrants, children and people of every spectrum of the work force. Without environmental oversight, the soil and the influence we wield on environmental policy around the planet, would die. Earth could simply not have endured another four years.

If these changes aren’t rolled back, America will inherit a poisoned land. Trump's rollbacks won’t simply disappear, miraculously; they will have to be fought for. For America to have pulled out of the Paris climate accord demonstrates a particular brand of deviousness and gangsterism unique to a certain political party of late. We will join the planet again soon and fight for it. If killing nature, ecocide, can be considered a crime, what the past administration has allowed, abetted and encouraged, can be considered among the greatest crimes in U.S. history. There is more than hope with the latest election. We can reverse course. We must and will. There is now renewed conviction, a mandate for what is left of the soul of this country. It is a victory for the planet and not just the U.S. But the rollbacks that could have swept this democracy aside must never be allowed to rear their ugly heads again.

“Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. One thing we know: our god is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.”

     —Chief Seattle

“God bless America. Let’s save some of it.”

     —Edward Abbey 

 

 

Learn more about Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson's work at their website.

 

Published on Nov 11, 2020