For almost two years, at least since the current President of the United States surprised most of the world by defeating his Democratic opponent in the 2016 election, there has been no shortage of panic, not only on the part of much of the American public but also from most of the country’s ‘establishment’ and mainstream news media, with the latter often feeding into the former in a kind of feedback loop of hysteria.
The problem is that most of the deluge of criticism directed at President Trump has been based on tone and tweet, rather than on the many disastrous policy decisions being made by his administration, especially in the domestic sphere.
For most of the last week, which saw the release of a new tell-all memoir, appropriately titled “Unhinged”, by three time Apprentice loser and former Trump confidante, Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the cable news networks, with the exception of Fox, which creates its own reality, have obsessively debated whether or not Donald Trump is a ‘racist’.
Anyone who has followed the 72 year old’s career, both in and out of office, will understand that this is a President who openly states what his predecessors obscured with dog whistles, but the issue keeps coming back because it never fails to create the conditions for hours of self-righteous panel discussions that cost much less to produce than actual field reporting, which these networks long ago abandoned.
While the President’s racism, bullying and misogyny are unacceptable and should be immediately called out whenever they appear in public statements, preferably through widespread mockery, his ignorant spews of vitriol are not impeachable offenses. By spending so much time being outraged, major media and even most of the Democratic opposition have ignored the areas where the Trump administration is arguably doing the most damage: to U.S. public lands and the natural world in general.
Unfortunately for the majority of Americans, whose air, water and land are being contaminated at an ever increasing rate, the Democratic party is controlled by many of the same interests as their right wing adversaries, a situation that was demonstrated most recently when the Democratic National Committee reversed an earlier decision not to take money from fossil fuel interests.
Almost unreported on, President Trump has overturned rules imposed by the Obama administration to improve fuel efficiency standards in motor vehicles and is watering down important guidelines governing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants called the Clean Power Plan. In terms of the politics, the latter policy does in part fulfill a campaign promise, in that burning coal will become somewhat more cost effective if it it’s for all intents and purposes unregulated.
Standards like these are the first line of defense for society’s most vulnerable, the elderly and children, who are much more quickly effected by airborne pollution, but they will eventually harm most Americans, and even citizens in other countries, as Mother Nature doesn’t recognize borders. While these changes on the part of Trump will likely make their way through the courts, there’s no guarantee that they will be restored and, even if they are, in the meantime, more damage will be done to the air and vulnerable ecosystems.
While former Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt faced a great deal of criticism in the press, it was almost exclusively on the basis of his shocking corruption rather than his dismantling of the agency that protects the air, water and the wild to the benefit of all Americans regardless of their economic class.
Showing his industry fueled priorities, at the top of his to do list upon becoming head of the EPA was to remove references to climate change and the Clean Power Plan from the agency’s web-site.
His tag team partner in crimes against nature has been the much lower key Ryan Zinke, Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, who is using the wildfires raging through California and elsewhere to promote the timber industry and attack environmentalists as ‘terrorists’. As reported byThe Intercept on August 11h, the Secretary Zinke went on Breitbart News radio and said, “We have been held hostage by these environmental terrorist groups that have not allowed public access, that refuse to allow harvest of timber,” he said. “The result is these catastrophic fires that are causing death.”
As explained by William Finnegan in the August 16th issue of the New York Review of Books, the U.S. Forest Service, through what is called the 10 AM rule in which all fires, including naturally occuring ones that are healthy for forests, must be put out by that time the following day, has helped create the conditions that allow for the massive fires we’ve seen in the American southwest this summer.
The timber industry has also been a contributor to this over time, cutting down older trees with a natural resistance to fire, “The idea was to harvest the old trees and replace them with more efficiently managed and profitable forests,” Finnegan wrote.
Younger, less resiliant trees, drought and bark beetles, tiny natural predators who thrive under these conditions, have turned many forests into what amounts to kindling, leading us into the era of the ‘mega-fire’.
In discussing the causes of wildfires, which sadly does include those that are set by humans, whether intentional or not, not once in the long article discussing three books on the subject does Finnegan mention obstruction by ‘environmentalists’ as a cause of these increasingly epic infernos.
Showing that they are just as craven as those put in charge of America’s natural environment by President Trump, “On July 19, 2018, the House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution, H.Con.Res.119, denouncing a carbon tax as detrimental to the U.S. economy.”
While carbon taxes are the type of ‘market based solution’ that won’t go far enough to tackle climate change and the vote is non-binding, it shows how far from sane policy the American right has gone in working to ensure that even limited actions are taken to avoid the worst case scenario of a 4 degree Celsius (just a little ofver 39 degrees Farenheit) rise in average temperatures (the Paris Climate Accords, which Trump pulled the U.S. out of, mandate that every effort be made to keep the temperature rise at less than 2 degrees Celsius this century) that will surely end life on earth as we have long known it.
This is not hyperbole, as Gregory Wellenius, an epidemiologist at Brown University, explained to Mother Jones recently, “There’s a point where the human body can’t cool itself, which means you are either in an air-conditioned space or you’re having serious health problems. Some places in the US will get to that point. The way we live, work and play will be altered by rising temperatures.”
Anecdotally, here in Montreal, 28 people died in July due to a days long heatwave, including the elderly neighbor of a close friend of this writer.
It’s impossible to conclusively prove people’s intentions, but it seems as if the power of the donor class in the United States is playing into the lack of political will to even speak out about what is being done to the natural world. News media appear more docile than ever in terms of not covering the damage being done to natural systems by their advertisers or potential advertisers. Worse, they scold those who want to discuss climate change during crises like hurricanes, claiming it’s ‘too soon’ when people are suffering through these tragedies.
While it’s nice to simply blame one man and his cronies for all that ails the United States, this dire situation has been created by a collective lack of responsibility on the part of governments throughout the world for decades. Reckoning with climate change would mean reckoning with the economic system that is one of its main drivers.
Demonstrating the kind of muddled thinking we so often hear from government officials, in 2007, then-Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, JamesClapper, was quoted in one of the documents made public by Edward Snowden saying that, “Increasingly, the environment is becoming an adversary for us. And I believe that the capabilities and assets of the Intelligence Community are going to be brought to bear increasingly in assessing the environment as an adversary.”
It says a lot about the mentality of such powerful people that they see the natural world as an ‘adversary’ rather than a blessing that has never, to our knowledge, been replicated anywhere else in the vastness of space. Then again, in societies that celebrate greed as a virtue, we shouldn’t be surprised that elites suffer from the kind of short-sightedness that might more correctly be called stupidity.
For those who profit from the ongoing pillage of the natural world, Donald Trump is not only the perfect vehicle to shred regulations, he’s also a powerful distraction from the ongoing for-profit war against nature itself.