There Is Nothing More Toxic To The Environment Than a Republican
Republicans have begun an unprecedented assault on the laws and agencies protecting America’s air, water, and land. This attack has been fermenting for years. Trump’s election has unleashed it.
Millionaires and companies that stand to benefit from an unregulated economy have funded Republicans to legislate their conservative, narrow-minded vision of the future. It is a future that is viewed through the rearview mirror of history. It is a return to a pre-1970s America or maybe even further back, to the 19th century. A time when the air, water, and land were used as open sewers for every kind of waste imaginable.
In the West, motive and motivations are similar; just add resource extraction to the equation. At risk: the existence of the Antiquities Act, Public Lands that contain some America’s last wild places, and the viability of the National Parks.
Manifest Destiny 2.0
Manifest Destiny is a phrase used to characterize the American westward expansion during the mid 19th century. At the time, it was viewed as a Providential mission to extend the boundaries of freedom and civilize the wild frontier. It opened the door to opportunities for land ownership, wealth from timber and mineral recourses, self-sufficiency and a feeling of self-rule. This inevitable expansion into the Western frontier, led to confrontations with Native Americans that resulted in removal from their land or slaughter
There is no place more beautiful than Southern Utah or the whole of the Four Corners region. Sadly, it is sitting on top of Oil, Tar Sands, Oil Shale, Natural Gas, Potash, Coal, Uranium, and a host of other minerals in addition to Forests, Grazing Land, and of course Water on the surface. Republicans main concern is the conversion of all of those resources into cash.
They feel that the Federal Government has impeded resource development on Public Lands due to the “over-reach” of environmental regulations and “land grabs” via the Antiquities Act. This feeling has created a pent-up rage in Western Republicans that is manifesting itself in attempts to dismantle the Antiquities Act and transfer Public Lands to the states. They really want to finish the plunder of the land begun in the 1840s.
The Antiquities Act
Republican President Teddy Roosevelt signed the act into law in 1906. Through the use of this presidential proclamation, the President can designate “objects of historic or scientific interest” on public land as a national monument. This can be done without the involvement of Congress.
Current day Republicans like Utah’s Representative Rob Bishop who chairs the House Committee on National Recourses despise the Antiquities Act. For example, on July 19, 2015, during a conference of the Western State Land Commissioners Association in Moab Utah, Bishop said:
"If anyone here likes the Antiquities Act the way it is written, die. I mean, stupidity out of the gene pool. It is the most evil act ever invented."
President Obama’s recent Bears Ears and Gold Butte National Monument designations in Utah and Nevada have sent Republicans into frenzied talk of gutting or removal of the Act. The Utah delegation is actively pursuing with Trump, the deauthorization of the Bears Ears designation and the scaling back of the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument created in 1996 by President Clinton (D). Republicans know that any action they take on monument status, Public Lands or the Antiquity Act will lead to litigation that will most likely make its way to the Supreme Court. This would be a favorable situation for them due to the Court’s conservative majority.
Again, the motivation is resource extraction. There are huge amounts of coal in the Grand Staircase and oil, gas and uranium in Bears Ears. All of it is off-limits now. For Republicans, coal, oil and gas deposits are sacred ground.
Most Public Land is in the West. The Federal Government obtained this land through the Louisiana Purchase, the Oregon Treaty with England, the U.S.-Mexican War, and land that was taken from Native Americans. Todays Public Lands are what is left after the original disposal of Federal Lands in the 1800s via the Home Stead Act and the formation of Western States and other measures to encourage people to move west.
Republicans, at all levels of government, are committed to transferring public lands and possibly some National Parks to the states primarily in the West. Utah Republicans are at the forefront of this movement. The reasoning used to justify the transfers is the “states rights” argument. The states have a more intimate knowledge of the land and can mange it better than the infamous bureaucrats in Washington. The constitutionality of the government owning land is also being called into question. The fact of the matter is Western, Red states have zero interest in managing any transferred Public land as wilderness or for any other conservation or recreational purposes. The sole reason is pure and simple; sell the land to the highest bidder for resource extraction. Recently, House Republicans made it easier to begin the transfer of public landsTheir constituents, the oil, gas, mining and logging industries will be the beneficiaries. So if you love to hike or hunt and fish on Public Lands, enjoy it now, you may not have long before your favorite spot belongs to an oil company or is being clear-cut.
The roots of this movement are in the West. It became known as the Sage Brush Rebellion during the Reagan era. Originally, the movement was composed of ranchers and extractive industries. Since the election of President Obama in 2008 it has morphed into something far more insidious. Various right-wing paramilitary and anti-government groups have now joined the movement. Several volatile situations have already occurred like the Bunkerville standoff in 2014 and the Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. The current far-right political climate will only embolden them.
The Republicans have been consistently cutting the budget of the National Parks. The motivation has been twofold. First, force the underfunded Parks into corporate partnerships to make up for the funding short fall. Then, they use the revenue shortfall and the resulting rundown condition of the Parks to justify the argument that America cannot afford any new National Parks. In fact, they suggest that we should sell some of them to pay-down the National Debt. For example, they advocate opening areas of the Grand Canyon to uranium mining. This is a classic example of blaming the victim they created to achieve their goal.
Make America Polluted Again!
Their goal, weaken or ultimately eliminate laws like the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Power Plan, and agencies like the EPA which Republicans claim hinder economic growth. Clearly, the polluters funding the Republican Party can’t wait to see a return on their investment with the neutering of environmental laws and the agencies that implement them. It’s all on the chopping block — 30+ years of environmental protection.
The disabling and destruction of the EPA is a prize Republicans have desired for decades; now they will have it. Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt has sued the agency several times. He is the new EPA administrator and will preside over its dismantling. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced a bill in the House (H.R.861) to terminate the EPA on 12/31/2018. Passage is probably unlikely, but it demonstrates the degree of contempt Republicans have for the environment and efforts to protect it.
Trump's approach: death by 1000 cuts is a more subtle way of achieving a similar goal. This will leave a hollow shell that he can assert is protecting human health and the environment. The damage to the agency will be so extensive, that repair will take decades. The results of these cuts will take years to manifest. A preview can be gleaned in Flint, MI's ongoing water quality/public health issues; or get a glimpse of what America’s pre-1970s air quality was like by looking at the smoggy Beijing China.
The Chinese Hoax
The Climate Change issue has become a favorite whipping boy for Trump and the Republicans. They believe in an unregulated economy. Combine that with conservative anti-science/anti-knowledge religious beliefs and you have the Republican’s formula for denial. Despite the enormous, worldwide body of scientific evidence, they continue to deny any human involvement in the increasing levels of greenhouse gases. They have twisted this complex issue of chemistry and physics and misled the public.
Similar to their defense of Tobacco; Republicans say more research is needed. Trump has gone one better by imposing ignorance. He wants to cut all climate research funding to Federal Agencies (EPA, NASA, NOAA) for any climate research. Red States like FL, NC and WI are using a similar tactic where terms like ”climate change” or “global warming” has been banned from state employees vocabularies and state web sites. This is all an ignorant, medieval censure of science. A way of silencing ideas you do not agree with. The 1633 Inquisition vs. Galileo Galilei comes to mind. It took 350 years for the Catholic Church to admit it was wrong; unfortunately we do not have that kind of time for Republicans to finally get it.
The Republican/Big Oil takeover of Washington could not have happened at a worse time. It will take years to repair the damage done to the research community. Worldwide research will also be impacted due to the sharing of U.S. satellite resources. If Trump pulls the U. S. out of the Paris Agreement, U.S. credibility will be damaged. This would be a disaster if other countries saw this as a cue to do the same.
Donald Trump tweeted on 11/6/2012:
"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U. S. manufacturing non-competitive."
Ironically, China, the alleged perpetrator of the hoax has recently announced its 13th Five-Year Plan for the period of 2016 to 2020. Included are its direction on energy and climate. Unlike the rearview mirror approach to “Making America Great Again,” the Chinese continue to cut their dependency on coal and increase reliance on clean energy—wind and solar. They are the world leader in the production of clean energy and the technology to create it. Their efforts will ensure that they will meet their commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate. They have also set auto fuel efficiency standard that are more ambitious with a shorter implementation timeline then U.S. standards Trump wants to scrap.
I grew up believing that a society has a natural progression toward becoming more unified and more enlightened. That it would aspire to lofty goals, and seek a greater understanding of the world around it. America has chosen a course in the opposite direction. It’s a path that embraces hate, greed, ignorance, contempt for nature, and a distrust of knowledge. This is the path American’s have chosen.
America has become an angry compassionless place. Attacks on the environment have become part of a larger Republican vendetta to erase any progress from the last eight years of President Obama. It will take a massive public outcry to salvage anything from the Republican anti-environmental onslaught.