A new book by Geoffrey Heal, professor at Columbia Business School, makes a trenchant point that’s ignored by those currently in power: our prosperity depends on protecting the planet.
Heal did a Q&A interview about his book, Endangered Economies, in the current issue of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ magazine Catalyst. (Heal is also UCS board member and an expert on economics and the environment.)
“The natural world provides everything we depend on,” Heal says. “We get our food from the natural world, we get our drinking water and our oxygen from the natural world, and we evolved as part of it. We simply can’t live without it. Plants create food, and they need pollination from insects and they need rain and they need soil. We can’t synthesize these things. So we really are totally dependent on the natural world in the end. Read the rest of this entry »
With Scott Pruitt now installed at the EPA, what is arguably one of the most successful government agencies ever—remember the dousing of the Cuyahoga River fire? Or the reduction of smog in LA?—is now itself gasping, on life support.
Those environmental advances were in large part because the EPA was around to protect the nation’s air, water, ground and health. Now it’s pretty clear that an emasculated EPA under Pruitt will have a tough time merely surviving, rather than continuing its work. For one thing one of Barrack Obama’s boldest environmental legacies, the Clean Power Plan, is going away.
In his first interview (with the Wall Street Journal) as EPA administrator, Pruitt said he wants to refocus the agency on a more narrow role. Pruitt said he expects to quickly withdraw both the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States Rule, the Obama administration’s attempt to clarify the EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act.
“There’s a very simple reason why this needs to happen: Because the courts have seriously called into question the legality of those rules,” Pruitt said in the interview, as reported by ThinkProgress.
ThinkProgress reported that Pruitt has challenged the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change, arguing that there is significant debate on whether it is happening and whether humans are the primary cause: “in reality there is little to no debate about those questions – 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is both happening and that human activity is contributing to it.
“There will be a rule-making process to withdraw those rules, and that will kick off a process,” Pruitt told the Wall Street Journal. “And part of that process is a very careful review of a fundamental question: Does EPA even possess the tools, under the Clean Air Act, to address this? It’s a fair question to ask if we do, or whether there in fact needs to be a congressional response to the climate issue.” In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts vs. EPA that the EPA does, in fact, possess the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants.
As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt “disbanded the office’s Environmental Protection Unit, dedicated to pursuing environmental law violations, and pursued only three environmental enforcement cases during his six years as Attorney General,” ThinkProgress reported. In addition:
“Pruitt also said that, as EPA administrator, he would focus on creating regulatory certainty that will help industry and spur job growth. Pruitt has long been a friend of the fossil fuel industry — emails revealed during a 2014 investigation by the New York Times showed Pruitt sending a letter of complaint to the EPA, in his role as Oklahoma Attorney General, drafted by Devon Energy, the largest energy company in Oklahoma.
The night before Pruitt was confirmed as EPA administrator by the Senate, a judge in Oklahoma ordered Pruitt’s office to release thousands of emails between the nominee and oil and gas companies. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) had requested access to those emails two years ago, but Pruitt’s office refused. The office has until Tuesday to release some 3,000 documents, which may reveal more coordination between Pruitt and industry actors.”
Those documents likely will be alarming and reveal much more about Pruitt’s ties to the fossil fuel industry, but will they affect the EPA’s future? Get set for a bumpy four years.
So the deed is done and suddenly, we live in an “American carnage” that only DJT can remedy, apparently. His dark message was a paean to nationalistic jingoism, fear mongering and isolationism.
Remnick: “Since Election Day, Trump has managed to squander good faith and guarded hope with flagrant displays of self-indulgent tweeting, chaotic administration, willful ignorance, and ethical sludge. Setting the tone for his Presidency, he refused, or was unable, to transcend the willful ugliness of his campaign. He goes on continuing to conceal his taxes, the summary of his professional life; he refuses to isolate himself from his businesses in a way that satisfies any known ethical standard; he rants on social media about every seeming offense that catches his eye; he sets off gratuitous diplomatic brushfires everywhere from Beijing to Berlin. (Everywhere, that is, except Moscow.)
“His appointees, in the meantime, are too often amateurs in the fields they now pretend to lead or determined opponents of the realms they are intended to safeguard: civil rights, the global environment, public housing.”
Krugman: “So there you have it: an administration unprecedented in its corruption, but also completely unprepared to govern. It’s going to be terrific, let me tell you.”
Maybe “carnage” is the right word after all…
The emerging Trump administration/cabal is taking shape, and it’s not looking good for the environment and climate change. What is emerging, for the most part, is a group of rich people in tune with the “president-elect’s” version of business intrusion, anti-regulation and crony capitalism.
With respect to the environment, and specifically the Environmental Protection Agency, DJT selected a puppet of the fossil fuel industry, Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, to head the EPA. According to the New York Times report on the nomination, it signals a “determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change — and much of the EPA itself.” Pruitt is actually suing the EPA for its “regulatory overreach” in his oil and gas intensive state.
The transition team press release announcing Pruitt’s selection, (quoted in a Washington Post report) said, “For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” the release quoted Trump as saying. Pruitt “will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.” Trump added, “My administration “strongly believes in environmental protection, and Scott Pruitt will be a powerful advocate for that mission while promoting jobs, safety and opportunity.”
More evidence that we are in Orwellian 1984 territory. Get ready for four years of doublethink.
Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, said: “Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires. He is a climate science denier who, as Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections. “Nothing less than our children’s health is at stake. Scott Pruitt, whose own bio describes him as ‘a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda’ cannot be trusted to head the EPA, an agency charged with protecting all Americans from threats to their water, air, and health. We strongly urge Senators, who are elected to represent and protect the American people, to stand up for families across the nation and oppose this nomination.”
Senate Democrats have signaled they will fight this nomination—this could be an early battle, and test, for the Dems.
Image: Scott Pruitt by Gage Skidmore via Flickr CC
Get set for a rough ride on climate change policies and inactions under Trump. Actually it will be a full-on climate disaster, with all of the progress of the past eight years—which wasn’t all that great in any case, but at least were crucial steps in the right direction—almost certainly reversed, undone, scrapped.
This is what is likely to happen, post-Jan. 20, based on reporting by various news outlets including Newsweek, the New York Times, The New Yorker, and the statements from DJT:
During the campaign, DJT vowed to withdraw from the Paris treaty on climate change negotiated last year. He said he would remove regulations that curb carbon emissions and permit oil drilling and mining on federal lands in the seas. He would approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and weaken—a better word is eviscerate—the Environmental Protection Agency. Read the rest of this entry »
I don’t think we –by “we” I mean writers, journalists, editors, bloggers, etc.–understand the disaster facing the country with respect to many issues – most importantly (to me) on climate change, renewable energy, sustainability, the Supreme Court, free speech, civil and gender rights, corporate power and influence, democratic institutions and equal justice.
Here is what David Remnick wrote last week in The New Yorker: “The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism…It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.”
In the early going Trump was a media novelty; he was “good copy,” as they say in newsrooms. He was not taken seriously until it became—too late—really serious, even deadly serious. Trump also tapped into a vein of discontent, anger and fear that was largely under-reported or ignored—again until it was too late.
So the reasoned and rational “what do we do now?” arguments and suggestions for going forward strike me as somewhat naive and not very useful because this is not a “business as usual” or “return to normalcy” situation. It’s not a rational and normal transfer of power, no matter how it is dressed up as such. This a new, different, uncertain, dangerous and even absurd universe—so new, different and radical thinking about the way we report and approach whatever horrors await us from the Trump/Pence cabal is needed. It means telling the truth with clarity and accuracy no matter how inconvenient or costly, both to ourselves and to the powerful.
Remnick concluded: “To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.”
That is what I promise to do. I hope you will join me.
Image: Donald Trump – Portrait by DonkeyHotey viaFlickr CC
While the national political discourse descends ever further into the gutter, the true crisis that must be addressed—climate change– is getting lost in the sleaze, ignorance and obfuscation.
McKibben puts it succinctly: “It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. And we are losing.” Read the rest of this entry »