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Trump’s Offshore Drilling Plan Puts 68 National Parks at Risk
Sixty-eight National Parks along the coastal U.S. could be in danger from devastating oil spills if President Donald Trump's plan to open 90 percent of coastal waters to offshore oil drilling goes through, a report released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Parks Conservation Association found.
The report, SpOILed Parks: The threat to our coastal national parks from expanded offshore drilling, summarizes the danger drilling poses to parks that saw 84 million visitors in 2017, supported 59 thousand jobs and earned $5.7 billion. Parks threatened include iconic pieces of American culture and landscape, from the Statue of Liberty National Monument to the Everglades National Park to Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
"These places matter, and we cannot completely protect them if we start to drill off our coasts," senior vice president of conservation programs for the National Parks Conservation Association Mark Wenzler told The San Francisco Chronicle.
Expanded drilling threatens six national sites in the Bay Area alone.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced the expanded drilling plans in January in response to an executive order by Trump ordering the rethinking of drilling bans implemented by former President Barack Obama, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. According to the new report, Zinke's plan would lease federal waters for oil and gas drilling and allow drilling in waters where it hadn't been allowed for decades, including areas off the coasts of Alaska and Florida and in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
"It may be stating the obvious to some," Franz Matzner, director of federal affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The San Francisco Chronicle of the report, "but it may not be obvious to the Trump administration, which is barreling ahead with a plan that is unprecedented."
To provide a sense of what is at stake, the report reviews how historic oil spills have devastated parks in the past. In 1969, an oil rig spilled 200,000 gallons into the Santa Barbara Channel in California, killing thousands of seabirds and marine mammals in the Channel Islands National Park.
The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound affected Kenai Fjords National Park, Katmai National Park and Preserve and Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve. Oil washes up on park beaches to this day.
Finally, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill harmed every island in the Gulf Islands National Seashore, where plants, wildlife and archeaological sites are still recovering.
All of these parks would be in danger again if Trump and Zinke's drilling proposal goes ahead.
According to the NRDC blog post announcing the report, more than 1.3 million Americans have sent comments opposing the plan to Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.