Donald J. Trump, Shooting the Ecological Messenger
Editor's note: The following opinion piece by Fellow Daniel Orenstein first appeared on The Times of Israel's website.
The global environment has seen ups and downs over the last 10,000 years – due to both natural phenomena and human activities. But the environmental pressures of the last two hundred years, resulting from exponential population growth and similarly rising material consumption, have turned humans into major players affecting the global environment. Humans are exploiting almost all available agricultural land and grazing lands, we have emptied most of the world’s natural fisheries, we continue to deforest at a rapid pace. But the most worrying of these trends is the continuing flow of carbon dioxide and methane from human activity into the atmosphere, despite that these greenhouse gasses are warming our planet.
Later, two of these Republican administrators, William Ruckelshaus and William Reilly would write:
“Republicans have a long history of support for the environment dating back to Theodore Roosevelt. Donald Trump threatens to destroy that legacy of respect for the environment and protection of public health… That Trump would call climate change a hoax—the singular health and environmental threat to the world today—flies in the face of overwhelming international science and the public conviction…”
Nonetheless, Donald J. Trump and his advisors have decided that science is their political tool. It’s not. We shouldn’t let them tinker with NASA and the EPA, or threaten government scientists who disagree with their skewed political agenda. They must be told to allow scientists to do their jobs and report their findings freely and honestly.
The Trump presidency is not just dangerous for US citizens, but for the future of human life on the planet. We may be stuck with him in the White House, but we can find others to take leadership on climate change policy and education. Civil society (us) must find alternative institutions for addressing issues of global and regional environment. Many of the 50 states will fill the void, as they have in the past, and enact progressive and productive environmental policies. At the international level, Europe will continue to strengthen its roles as global leader in clean energy production and perhaps China, facing monumental challenges of regional air pollution and rising carbon emissions, will assume leadership, as well. (Under Trump, the US will likely become the world’s greatest emitter of greenhouse gasses, a title recently taken from the US by China.)
Scientists, educators and researchers also have to become leaders, both advancing the state of knowledge about global climate and the impacts of human activities, and strengthening the ecological literacy of our youth. Education will be key in pushing back the damage that the Trump presidency is already causing. This is the moment to show that human society is stronger, and smarter, than its wayward leaders.