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Rejecting Trump’s vision of a single-use planet

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On Monday, a comprehensive report published by the United Nations made clear that human activity is likely to drive the extinction of 1 million species from the face of the planet as, among other things, land use and climate warming erode vital ecosystems. On the same day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took to a stage to declare that the swift disappearance of Arctic ice — potentially the most visible erosion of an ecosystem — presents “new opportunities for trade.”

The United Nations assessment describes a set of human activities that is quickly leading to the disappearance of species on a previously unimaginable scale. The World Wildlife Fund put this extinction event into perspective, concluding that there’s been a decline of 60 percent of all animal life since 1970.

{mosads}As populations dwindle and species inch closer to extinction, each extinction is a mark on the legacy of our own species. We are building a world that squarely places humans at odds with our planet.

The Trump administration inhabits a worldview that considers the extinction of 1 million species to be nothing more than a side effect of the pursuit of profit. The climate crisis, a major driver of this extinction event, is melting the Arctic at alarming rates. Rather than sound the alarm, Pompeo characterizes the melting as an opportunity to drill for more gas, diamonds and gold. Again and again, the Trump administration — and the worldview that underpins it — demonstrates its willingness to abandon future generations and sacrifice species in the thousands in the service of a handful of corporate profiteers.

Although Trump’s rejection of climate science and dismantling of environmental protections are consistent with his agenda, Pompeo’s bluster is evidence of a worldview that considers exploitation of the planet’s resources a virtuous pursuit.

In stark contrast to this is the view that the planet is part of a holistic, interconnected system that gives us life, rather than merely a system to be exploited for short-term gain. Trump’s exploitation worldview reflects an ideology that the Earth exists solely to serve humans, rather than to create and sustain a balanced ecosystem that provides for all species. 

Luckily, a new generation of leadership is redefining our relationship to the planet, calling on policymakers to discover and build a new paradigm that recognizes the inherent value of other species. To ensure that a holistic environmental worldview triumphs, young people are organizing, defying this exploitive worldview and demanding action by calling on statehouses to adopt new policies that price carbon emissions and increase the proliferation of clean energy.

On a fundamental level, young people are working to shift the very paradigm of a corporate and political class intent on rejecting scientific truths that treats the planet as a single use resource to be disposed of after each generation.

In the end, the story of humanity cannot be a story about the relentless exploitation of wildlife and resources. We must pave a path forward that ensures the longevity of not just our own species, but the environmental fabric that provides us with everything on which we depend. To believe that the world solely exists to propel our short-term gains is not only unsustainable; it denies the richness of a human coexistence with millions of other organisms and embraces an existential loneliness that values short-term profit above all else.

 The rejection of this worldview by a new generation of leadership is the pivotal source of hope for an enduring world. We still have the opportunity to leave a different legacy. 

Jake Kornack is the interim board president of Our Climate.

Tags Arctic climate Jake Kornack Mike Pompeo Pollution

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