Americans Red and Blue Unite Against Trump's Plan to Drill the Atlantic
By Jeff Turrentine
President Trump, to put it mildly, hasn't worked too hard to bring Democrats and Republicans together on many issues. By almost any account, the partisan divide in this country today is wider than it's been in living memory, certainly wider than it was before he took office.
But on one issue, at least, the president seems to have bridged that divide and fostered some much-needed unity. When it comes to endorsing Trump's plan to open up the Atlantic coast to oil and gas drilling, citizens in both red and blue states—as well as their elected officials—are speaking with one voice.
They're saying, "Hell, no."
When Trump issued an executive order unveiling his new America-First Offshore Energy Strategy back in April, his administration announced that the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program would be one of its key components. Under the aegis of this new program—which essentially reverses the Obama administration's 2016 ban on drilling in the Atlantic—the U.S. Department of the Interior would begin considering new leases for oil and gas rigs along the Eastern Seaboard for a five-year period beginning in 2019.
Trump knew the move would enrage many of those who didn't vote for him and who already oppose his pro-extraction, anti-renewables energy policy. But by oh-so-cleverly placing the words America First in his plan's name, he probably thought he'd have no trouble picking up support in states where he had performed well in the election, or where the GOP controls the statehouse or the legislature (or both).
Except that's not what happened.
The response from South Carolina—where Trump beat Hillary Clinton by more than 14 points, and where the Trump-supporting Republican governor, Henry McMaster, routinely enjoys the cooperation of a state legislature dominated by members of his party—must have caught the president off guard. "I'm against it," said the governor, flatly and unequivocally, back in June. His objection is shared by the mayors of Republican-heavy cities and towns up and down South Carolina's coast. It's also shared by the president of the state's Small Business Chamber of Commerce, who also leads the multistate Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, which represents more than 40,000 businesses that oppose the drilling leases.
Other Republican governors along the eastern coast who publicly oppose offshore drilling include Larry Hogan of Maryland and Chris Christie of New Jersey—the latter of whom enthusiastically endorsed Trump during the GOP primaries. While the GOP governors of Georgia and Florida, Nathan Deal and Rick Scott, respectively, have kept their mouths shut on the issue so far, their silence is a statement in and of itself. Both endorsed Trump for president, and both of their states went for Trump over Clinton. But they know the vast majority of their constituents don't want oil spills lapping at their coastlines, or the whale-killing seismic blasting that paves the way for the industry. These governors will keep quiet as long as it's politically feasible, although the pressure from newspaper editorial boards, citizens' groups and the business community suggests that time is almost up.
The public comment period for the Atlantic drilling program formally ended last week, and it's now up to the Interior Department, under the leadership of Ryan Zinke, to weigh the administration's desire to dramatically ramp up offshore oil and gas production against the public's response not to. We can safely assume that Trump and his cabinet won't give a moment's thought to objections raised by Democratic governors and lawmakers, environmental organizations and citizens' groups that are already perceived by the administration as hostile. In the president's childishly binary worldview, anyone who has ever disagreed with him on anything is, de facto, an enemy of the state whose opinion isn't worthy of consideration.
But can the president afford to defy the firmly expressed wishes of his base? Of Republican governors? Of business leaders and chambers of commerce in deep-red states? Of conservative stakeholders who are deeply (and rightly) worried about the potential destruction of the shores they call home?
As Trump and Zinke (or more likely their staffers) sift through the tens of thousands of public comments, perhaps it will finally dawn on this administration that the environment simply doesn't work as a wedge issue. Regardless of how they might vote or self-identify ideologically, American citizens have made it abundantly clear that they don't want wildlife-threatening seismic blasts or unnecessary, and leak-prone, oil rigs off their own coastlines. It's a loser on every level—environmental, economic and, yes, political.
Which brings me to my next point: We need to stop treating the protection of the environment as a "political" issue in the conventional sense of that word. We all breathe air and drink water. We all need clean, nontoxic neighborhoods and a safe food supply. We all deserve to enjoy and appreciate natural wonders like oceans, beaches and waterfronts. And we all contribute, through either our actions or our inactions, to the future condition of the planet that our children, and their children, will inherit.
Some have speculated that Trump's primary presidential motivation is nothing more than destroying Barack Obama's legacy. If this is true, then he won't heed the many voices—including those within his own party—telling him to put this idea of drilling in the Atlantic out of its misery and move on to something else. But if he actually cares about something more than spite, or even if he just wants to do the right thing, he'll listen to the American people and try to carry out their will.
Reposted with permission from our media associate OnEarth.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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