Since Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, he has almost ceaselessly been making headlines. Whether it’s about crowd size, his daughter’s clothing line, light switches, travel bans, Oval Office couches, wire taps, microwave cameras or Snoop Dog, reporters seem ready and poised to jump on virtually anything Trump tweets or his comically inept sycophants, Spicer and Conway, say. The problem with this steady stream of absurdity is that we are missing the big picture. And yes, even the travel ban, as egregious and mean-spirited as it is, is not as important in the long run as the deregulation that Trump is undertaking with regards to environmental protection.
It is easy to get caught up in outrageous accusations, alternative facts and well publicized executive orders. The bottom line though is that we only have one planet, and the damage that can be done to our air, water and land in the space of a few years can take generations to undo. Yes, it makes me sick to my stomach to hear Trump try to defend his anti-Muslim travel ban by trumpeting the need to protect Americans, while at the same time rolling back Obama era regulations which made it tougher to purchase hand guns. Yes, in the coming years, thousands may well die as a result of the loosening of gun laws and tens of thousands may be discriminated against and denied entry into America. But that’s small potatoes compared to the devastation that will result from the poisoning of the planet. The worst aspect of it is that it will not only affect our generation, but hundreds of millions, perhaps billions not yet born. It is one thing to mess up the present world because of greed, vanity and myopia, but quite another thing to condemn the future. There is simply no defense; we know what the most qualified scientists have been saying for decades. To deny it or suggest that it is inconclusive is the most selfish and greedy act in human history, a saga which has seen no shortage of greed and selfishness.
It was inspirational in January when women marched on Washington to protest against the vicious, xenophobic and deceitful executive branch of the United States. But where were the people in the streets when Trump appointed Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency? If we cared about the planet, we should have brought cities to a standstill in the wake of this outrage. Pruitt is on record as denying that human activity is the key factor in climate change. He has a long history of fighting against environmental regulation and defending the actions of negligent companies. This is the man that Trump has appointed to safeguard the planet. Unless you live on a space station, that should be enough to enrage you. Earth is our home. We may be used to calling the four walls we live in home, but that’s just a temporary structure. And the planet is not just our home, but home to the 8.7 million species that inhabit Earth. And yes, the cynical and pragmatic thinkers out there will tell you that regardless of who is heading up the EPA, the hundreds of millions in ‘dark money’ spent by the ultra-rich will effectively neuter any serious regulations the EPA proposes in any event. But this is still important. It’s important because we have no Lorax to speak for the trees. Scientists who speak out live in fear of being attacked by powerful lobby groups (see Michael Mann among others). It’s important because as long as there was someone who really believed in the mandate of the EPA at its head, then bright young people may be inspired to work for the EPA and defend the planet. How can the 17,000 employees of the EPA feel any motivation now? How can they possess any confidence that their testing, their studies, their recommendations will produce anything of substance?
Selfishness only flourishes if there is a lot of it. Yes, the business leaders and politicians who have turned a blind eye to the poisoning of the planet have a special place in the pantheon of greed, but what have most of us done about it, myself included? We’re so busy with the here and now that we have not thought about the horrible “intergenerational tyranny” we are imposing upon our descendants. Don’t fool yourself. When future generations think of us, they won’t remember our art ,our philosophy or our technological innovation. They will know us simply as killers who doomed them; people who had the knowledge and means to sustain the world, but chose not to because they were too busy taking selfies, counting their money and relieving their stress.
If you don’t want that to be your legacy, stand up for the planet.