BY STATE SENATOR JAMES SANDERS, JR.
As we just recently celebrated Earth Day, I thought this would be a good opportunity to examine President Donald Trump’s environmental policies and their effects locally, nationally and globally. The district I represent has acres of parkland and wildlife inhabited areas such as Jamaica Bay and Idlewild Park Preserve, and under those conditions, I try to be ecologically conscious. So when I hear how President Trump is neglecting the future of our earth, by reversing all of the progress that former-President Obama has made in these areas, naturally I am concerned, and you should be too.
Let’s start with Trump’s public statement marking Earth Day, which is recognized on April 22nd. He spoke about historic economic and job growth, stating that they go hand in hand with environmental protection, but completely overlooked the topic of climate change, one of the most important issues of our time.
In 2012, Trump tweeted: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” He later backtracked on the idea, claiming the remark was a joke, however in 2014, he continued to tweet that global warming is a “hoax” and “nonsense,” and in 2015, he said “I don’t believe in climate change.” However, Trump’s warped view on the environment doesn’t stop there.
In October 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Trump, announced plans to reverse President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which set a carbon standard for power plants, forcing them to cut their carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030. This is significant because carbon pollution from U.S power plants is the largest source of pollution in the country and contributes greatly to climate change, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Climate change causes extreme weather, droughts, wildfires, floods, and many other types of disastrous conditions.
Trump’s EPA has also relaxed regulations on toxic air pollution. They stopped implementing a rule called “once in, always in,” or OIAI, which stated that if a company exceeded the legal pollution level it would have to correct the situation by bringing down the levels to match the lowest ones produced by their industry peers. Now, these companies only have to implement pollution control methods once, and when they are down, they can cease using those innovations.
In June 2017, President Trump indicated that he intended for the United States to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, something that can’t actually happen until 2020. Nevertheless, if it does happen, it isolates our nation from having a say in international climate change agreements and makes us one of only three nations, the others being Nicaragua and Syria, to not be members of the accord, and the only one to withdraw because of the belief that the accord is burdensome. It also makes our country seem uncooperative to other nations when it comes to issues that aren’t even environmentally related.
So, we know that President Trump is not working to protect the earth, but what can we do on a local level, besides voting him out of office in 2020, to make our planet a cleaner and greener place?
My office regularly hosts events to help residents recycle paper, plastic, and electronics and gives away rain barrels to facilitate the re-use of water, and compost, which takes recycled matter and helps build good soil structure. I also recently hosted an Earth Week Expo to educate the public on good environmental practices. On the state level, I am the sponsor of the Green New Deal for New York. This legislation aims to make our state greenhouse gas emissions neutral by 2030 by transitioning from a fossil fuel-based economy to one based on 100 percent clean renewable energy.
There is a Native American proverb that says: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” It’s just another way of saying we should be doing all we can to protect the environment, not only for ourselves, but for future generations. President Trump would be wise to remember that.