'We'll Rise as One and Resist' Trump's Attack on People and Planet
For all the bewilderment and chaos of President Trump's first month in office, on one point he's been all too clear: He is dead set on destroying the commonsense safeguards we all depend on to protect our environment and health, crippling our government's ability to stand up to industrial polluters and shutting down the voice of the people in those actions that most impact our lives.
As early as this week, Trump is expected to escalate this assault with orders that could threaten our waters, public lands and hopes of leaving our children a livable world. He is reportedly poised to direct his administration to rewrite the Clean Power Plan (the single-most important tool we have for cutting the U.S. carbon pollution that's helping to drive climate change), rewrite the Clean Water Rule (putting at risk wetlands and streams that feed drinking water sources for 117 million Americans) and lift the moratorium on new coal leases on our public lands.
And let's be just as clear as to who'll pay the price for this reckless assault on our values and rights: our families, workers, communities and kids. That is not okay.
OMG! Assault on the #EPA Begins: Trump to Sign Two Executive Orders https://t.co/fNV2qNlMrs @climatehawk1 @greenpeaceusa @billmckibben @350— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1487688698.0
It's all according to a plan ripped straight out of the playbook of big oil, coal and gas. And, like so much else we've seen from this administration so far, it's built on the sand of state-sponsored deceit.
Trump claims it's about jobs. It's not. It's about profits for some of the worst polluters on the planet. He says this will strengthen our economy. It won't. Shifting to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future is the economic play of our lifetime. Trump wants to slam us into reverse and squander our future on the dirty fuels of the past.
And he boasts this will "make America great again." But taking us back to the days when rivers caught fire, beaches were blackened with toxic crude oil and air pollution darkened our skies is not great.
Less than five weeks after taking office, Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have rushed to set back progress achieved through decades of bipartisan cooperation on clean water and air, the protection of our public lands and coastal waters and our obligation to protect future generations from the dangers of climate change.
Trump has killed rules to protect coal communities and mountain streams from the ravages of mountaintop removal. He's swept aside the voice of the Standing Rock Sioux and vowed to force the Dakota Access Pipeline across their water sources and sacred lands. And he's put a career opponent of environmental protections in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt has sided with industrial polluters to take the EPA to court 14 times to try to block the agency from doing its job of protecting the public from polluted air and water and the perils of unchecked climate change.
Pruitt has turned to oil and gas producers to write letters critical of EPA policy that he has then posted, almost verbatim, on official stationery of the Oklahoma office of attorney general. He's accepted more than $300,000 in direct political contributions from oil and gas companies and organized the collection of millions more from the industry on behalf of conservative causes and candidates. Just last week, an Oklahoma court ordered Pruitt to release up to 3,000 e-mail exchanges he had with fossil fuel and other industrial interests.
Judge orders #Trump's @EPA pick #pollutingPruitt to release emails by Tuesday https://t.co/qie7rQ5cXm— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@Robert F. Kennedy Jr)1487338632.0
Those e-mails will tell us, in Pruitt's own words, just how ready he is to regulate these polluting industries as head of the EPA. That information goes directly to Pruitt's fitness to serve and that''s precisely what the Senate has a constitutional duty to assess. That's what checks and balances are all about.
And yet, on Feb. 17, rather than wait a few days for those e-mails, Senate Republicans, joined by two Democrats from coal-mining states, forced a 52–46 vote to confirm Pruitt. Among Republicans, only Susan Collins of Maine showed the courage to stand up for the people of her state and vote to reject Pruitt, the worst pick ever confirmed to head the EPA.
True to form, shortly after being sworn into office, Pruitt tweeted out his mission statement: "I'm dedicated to working w/stakeholders—industry, farmers, ranchers, business owners—on traditional values of environmental stewardship."
In so many ways, that says it all. Pruitt is there to serve special interests, not to do the job President Richard Nixon first assigned the EPA nearly five decades ago: Defend the natural resources upon which our prosperity, our security and our very lives depend.
What does Pruitt's tweet say, though, to that family in coal country, watching ancient Appalachian streams buried by tons of toxic scree when mountains get dynamited to rubble? What does it say to that waterman in the Chesapeake Bay, where Pruitt fought EPA cleanup efforts meant to save dying crabs, oysters and fish? What does it say to that child struggling with asthma, that senior citizen plagued with respiratory ailments or that expectant mom worried about mercury harming her unborn baby—all real problems addressed by EPA rules Pruitt went to court to try and overturn? And what does it say to our children and grandchildren when they ask why we failed to stand up to the mounting dangers of climate change?
The EPA is our environmental guardian. We need that guardian to be strong. We need it to stand up to industrial polluters and fight for the good of our people.
This story, though, is just being written. It's the beginning, not the end. We still hold, in this country, more political power in the palm of our hand than any other people in any other place at any other time in the history of the world.
We will not abide this reckless assault. We will not lie quiet and calm. We'll embrace our political power. We'll rise as one and resist. We'll gather in numbers, both large and small and, from our living rooms and kitchen tables to the halls of Congress and the National Mall, we'll sound the voice of a united people standing up for a healthy environment, standing up for our values and rights, standing up for our common future.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.