Remember the scene from the movie “Titanic”? The ship has hit the iceberg and taking-in water rapidly.
Rose: Don’t you understand? The water is freezing and there aren’t enough boats. Not enough by half. Half the people on this ship are gonna die.
Cal: Not the better half.
Now re-imagine the scene such that the iceberg is Climate Change, and the sinking ship is planet Earth, the crash event has already occurred. Are you one of those who are going to sink/die? Or do you, by an extraordinary turn of luck, find yourself in the “better half” category, thinking you would be able to save yourself, by paying for your passage on a “lifeboat”?
With climate fires raging on one side of the country, climate hurricanes and climate floods on another, while we are in a midst of a pandemic that’s killed more than 200,000 Americans alone, surely your certainty must be a little bit shaken, no matter who you are or how you vote? If you are still wondering, look out — perhaps from your window, or at photos and videos, of the wildfires on the west coast, burning trailer parks and mansions alike, choking the lungs of the homeless as well as the billionaires. Climate Change is the iceberg that none of us are going to survive, at most it will buy the rich a few extra years on a dying planet. Whether we like it or not, we have finally arrived at a time in history when our fates are inter-twined, no matter where or how we live. The only way to survive this impending disaster is for us to start walking on a path of compassion, perseverance and self-sacrifice, guided by science. For nations around the world to act in such a manner, we need to elect leaders who inspire such qualities. It’s a no brainer then that “45” must go.
Donald Trump is the most anti-science and anti-environment president America has ever seen. Let us consider some of the other men who have occupied the highest office of the land in the last 100 years or so. After becoming president in 1901, Teddy Roosevelt; a Republican, established 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks and 18 national monuments. FDR; a Democrat, created the Civilian Conservation Corps putting unemployed men to work on conservation projects — fighting soil erosion, planting trees and improving wild life habitats, he added over one-quarter of the areas in today’s National Park Service system. Nixon; a Republican, championed path-breaking environmental protections for Americans, by creating the EPA, and signing the Clean Air Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. Carter; a Democrat, supported legislation for the cleanup of toxic contamination and protected swaths of land in Alaska, he also had the courage to exhort Americans to rein in their consumption of gasoline and electricity. Bill Clinton placed millions of acres of federal land off-limits to development as national monuments, surpassing the acreage that Roosevelt had set aside. It was no small feat of leadership when President Obama; despite the hostility of Republicans in Congress, managed to corral every single country on the planet into the Paris Climate Agreement, in a last ditch effort to save humanity from imminent disaster. Fast forward 1.5 years later, President Trump who had alternately called Climate Change “a hoax”, “not a hoax”, “a hoax invented by China” and a “very serious subject” promised to withdraw America from the Paris Climate Agreement. That marked the beginning of his legacy as the President with the worst environmental record ever.
Pursuing an unrelenting fossil fuel agenda, Trump placed former industry executives and lobbyists in control of the EPA, who promptly scaled back or eliminated over 150 environment measures for the sole benefit of the fossil fuel industry. His administration rolled back auto emission standards, rejected regulations on airborne emissions of mercury; a potent neurotoxin & other toxic substances from power plants, and reduced regulation on the disposal and storage of coal ash. It opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, national monuments in Utah and coastal waters all around the United States to drilling. It weakened rules that limited venting or flaring of methane from oil and gas production on public lands. Just as the nonpartisan auditing agency; Government Accountability Office (GAO) was issuing the Climate Change warning that natural disasters had cost America $350bn in the previous decade alone, Trump administration was quietly removing “Climate Change” references from government websites. While the country was reeling from the effects of climate hurricanes Harvey and Maria, his administration relieved federal agencies from having to consider a project’s impact on Climate Change during the review and permitting process. While our attention span has been consumed by the President’s ridiculous tweets, his administration has been steadily and ominously working behind the scenes to further its all-out assault on the environment.
Every attempt to discuss environmental issues is overshadowed by disingenuous arguments claiming its adverse effects on “job”, “economy”, “business friendly environment”, “burdensome regulations” etc. This is simply lying propaganda. Most of Trump’s regulatory rollbacks are intended to boost fossil fuel production and use, to line the pockets of the fossil fuel industry because it donates millions of dollars to the election campaigns of those who champion them. What else would explain the burying of a proposal to improve the connection between the east and west coast electricity grids, which would have meant more jobs, cheaper electricity, greater resilience and less pollution, but also death to the least efficient means of power generation aka coal? It was not buried to benefit small businesses or the lives of ordinary Americans. The lives of ordinary Americans would greatly benefit from not having to breathe air laden with toxic pollutants or drink water laced with lead. The lives of ordinary Americans would vastly improve from the millions of new and well-paying jobs that the Green Deal offers. The lives of coalminers dying from black lung would vastly improve if employed in clean green jobs such as making wind turbines, right where they live. The lives of Texans, Puerto Ricans and Louisianans would be infinitely better if their homes were not flooded and towns not devastated by hurricanes growing ever more powerful due to warming oceans. Same goes for the lives of Californians, Oregonians and Washingtonians, which are increasingly impacted by wildfires, intensifying each year due to long periods of drought.
Whatever else Americans may think of the President, there is not much doubt that he is not the brightest when it comes to Science — looking at a solar eclipse with naked eyes, suggesting Americans inject bleach or take Hydroxychloroquine to fight COVID-19, ignoring the advice of his own scientists and doctors. Why then should Americans trust him with a challenge as complex as Climate Change? Imagine your cardiologist told you that you were going to have a heart-attack, unless you hit the gym, cut back on meat, and got your act together. Would you keep doctor-shopping until you found one who told you that your diseases will just “miraculously disappear”? What if 98/100 doctors you consulted, told you that your prognosis was bad? That’s the terrifying prognosis of Climate Change. His mindboggling anti-science stance is precisely the reason why hallowed American institutions and publications such as Scientific American and The New England Journal of Medicine have for the first time in their 175 and 208 year history respectively, decided to publicly warn Americans about the dangers of re-electing this President.
Whether its sea level rise, extreme weather events, water scarcity, food shortages, mass extinction of species, humanity’s very existence is under attack. Yet, this President has chosen the path of extreme apathy, willful ignorance and deceitful talking points, instead of preparing us for this unprecedented disaster looming at our doorstep. Just like pandemic scientists had been warning us for years about the possibility of a deadly disease like COVID-19 striking the world, climate scientists have been sounding similar alarms with far more terrible consequences. Do we really want to be caught as ill-equipped by the worst effects of Climate Change as we were by the pandemic? Unlike the pandemic, Climate Change won’t be solved by a single vaccine. Its death rate won’t be as low as 1% either. And unlike the President if/when we find ourselves sick or homeless, we won’t have the luxury to be air-lifted by Air Force One, out of the mess we ourselves created.
If there is any good news on Climate Change, it is that we have the tools to slow it down and mitigate its worst effects; all we need is the will — political, individual and collective. Like tropical storms that turn into hurricanes, and outbreaks that turn into pandemics, the marvel of today’s scientific knowledge is that it gives us time and ability to forecast and plan ahead. That science is telling us that we don’t have much time left, it is telling us the steps we need to take NOW or countless lives would be lost. By refusing to look at the science, Trump is waging a war on Americans themselves, abrogating his single most important duty as commander-in-chief. On November 4th, the United States would officially pull out of the Paris Agreement, ending any real hope for the environment, the world and our very own future. On November 3rd, the eyes of the world would be upon us — watching to see if America is still the country that won wars and dared to stand on the right side of history, or if we have devolved into a clueless careless lot, that would happily re-elect the enemy of the people himself.
If we do, we might as well kiss our children good night, the water is going to be cold.