Environmental Regression

What the Trump Administration has done to contribute


photo by Julia Poppa

We are witnessing the gradual deterioration of our environment at our own hands, and the President is only making matters worse.

Julia Poppa, Staff Writer

There’s a sense of environmental urgency ravaging this country and nearly every other developed country in the world. Carbon emissions are at an all-time high, the fires in the Amazon threaten to damage it beyond repair, and marine life lives in a metaphorical soup of polluted waters and nearly two and a half thousand pounds of plastic. As if that wasn’t bad enough, those carbon emissions need to be cut by 45% by 2030, and decisive actions need to be taken before the end of 2020, or our species may just not make it on this earth for much longer.

From foreign governments and politicians to your favorite celebrities, people are demanding action. Even students have led strikes on their education until their governments finally agree to begin to update and draft policies in favor of saving the earth. Everyone seems to be invested in our planet — everyone except for our president. Not only have President Trump and his administration neglected climate change, but they have continually reversed progressive and protective policies for the sake of short-term gain.

Most recently, Trump has chosen to roll back emission policies on lightbulb energy efficiency standards. To briefly unpack what this could mean for the environment: keeping inefficient light bulbs on store shelves means roughly $100 or more a year in unnecessary energy costs for the average American family. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, we would need 25 coal plants to produce enough energy simply to power these bulbs, let alone the number of plants it would take to run the factories that make them. The regulations that were in place weren’t part of a recent policy either — it was put into action in the 2007 Bush era. These policies were created before climate change was such a pertinent problem, so it would seem regressive to repeal these policies in such dire times.

The beginning of 2019 marked a 30-year low of criminal enforcement on the part of the EPA, followed by the final green light by Trump for the Keystone XL pipeline.

But this isn’t Trump’s first uncalled for attack on the climate. National Geographic published a timeline of Trump’s environmental offenses, going all the way back to the beginning of his presidency in 2016, with the proposals of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. In case you aren’t familiar with the pipeline propositions, or simply forgot since then, the pipelines not only increase the amount of greenhouse gasses but also threaten to destroy sacred Native American land.

2017 was the year Trump actively sought to dismantle the work done for the environment during the Obama administration. He signed an executive order to review the policies regarding off-shore drilling and halted any new expansions or designations of National Marine Sanctuaries. Trump’s EPA removed Obama’s Clean Power Plan, stating there was no longer a war on coal. And at the end of the year, he declared that climate change was no longer a national security threat.

The environmental massacre didn’t end in 2017 either. In 2018, President Trump loosened toxic air pollution regulations, car emission standards, and Endangered Species Act rules. Methane policies were repealed and off-shore Arctic oil wells were approved.

The beginning of 2019 marked a 30-year low of criminal enforcement on the part of the EPA, followed by the final green light by Trump for the Keystone XL pipeline. And these are just a very small few of the crimes against the environment that have occurred during the Trump administration.

To summarize these past three years, The New York Times published some statistics about environmental policy rollbacks. A total of 84 have been proposed, 35 are in the process of being completed, and 49 have officially been completed. Out of the 49, ten have been in regard to air pollution and emissions, nine for drilling, 12 for infrastructure, and the remaining 18 cover other various topics relating to animals and toxic waste regulations, etc.

To me, the lack of concern and urgency the government has is terrifying and unjustified. In a country where self-preservation has become an ideology of its people, how have decisive and progressive actions not been taken? Our livelihood as an American people depends on self-preservation, and fighting for our climate is the largest, most impactful form of self-preservation I can think of. With no environment and no world to live in, we don’t even have a livelihood to protect. The money and the status that Americans are so concerned with becomes null and void.

This fight against climate change will never cease to feel un-winnable. Until the majority combine forces to set forth valuable time and effort, or real and measurable positive change occurs, you might feel just as stuck and helpless as I do.

It isn’t easy to watch your planet deteriorate, or your country become the laughing stock of environmental scientists across the globe. But as individuals, there are lots of things we can do to start making impactful changes for our environment.

For example, supporting companies that have higher recycled content than their competitors, or simply making an effort to not consume single-use plastics. You can do other things too, like calling your legislators, or just grabbing a group of friends and a few trash bags to help clean up your community. It always sounds difficult to start taking the first steps towards sustainable lifestyles, the kind that would make President Trump quake, but no one expects you to lead a zero-waste, zero-emissions life. Take baby steps, but take action.

If we as a country do not begin to take action, or participate in global plans to improve the state of the climate, we may never be able to save it. So often I have heard adults joke about the mess they’ve left us, telling us they hope we can fix it. But we don’t want hope, we want action. Trump stands at the forefront of these destructive behaviors, promoting regressive policies and fueling the idea that our generation is the only one responsible for creating change for the environment.

In reality, we need to work together as a community and as a country to defeat the environmental regression this administration has caused, and to bring about real change that will truly bring hope to this generation so that there may be many generations yet to come.