President Donald Trump has used a sweeping executive order to reverse years of government efforts to promote clean air, water and energy. His claim? Environmental protections are bad for jobs. His solution? Windfalls to giant energy and carbon-extraction companies that fix nothing, but threaten vulnerable communities.
“In calling for a review of the Clean Power Plan and an end to the so-called ‘war on coal,' Donald Trump has declared war on all living and future generations of people on this planet, especially those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change," said Maxine Murphy, who represented People's Action at the Paris U.N. climate summit, and is a board chairperson with PUSH Buffalo.
President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) has helped reduce the impact of climate change. This program was created as part of the U.S.’s compliance with the U.N. Paris Climate Agreement, and cuts emissions from power plants by a third from their 2005 levels over fifteen years. Trump’s order rolls back the CPP and other climate-friendly initiatives.
Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, has claimed that cutting Obama’s programs “will bring back manufacturing jobs across the country, coal jobs across the country." The truth is that clean-energy jobs already vastly outnumber fossil fuel jobs nationwide, according to the Sierra Club.
Climate Affects Everyone
Candidate Trump repeatedly promised to support the working class, but as president he has taken a different direction. He not only endangers the lives of vulnerable communities by nullifying key environmental regulations like the CPP, but he also wants to cut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget by 31 percent and cut 15,000 EPA workers’ jobs.
Low-income people and communities of color are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards in the United States. Take a look at the 11,000 uranium mines that poison the water, land, and people who live on Native and federal lands. Then there’s the 48217 zip code of Detroit – the most polluted zip code in America – where you’ll find staggering rates of asthma, heart disease and neurological disorders.
In Louisiana, rising waters have swallowed 98 percent of the bayou claimed by the Isle de Jean Charles band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaws, turning them into climate refugees. In Cincinnati, Ohio, coal plants and waste incinerators surround black neighborhoods, where residents die 20 years younger than their neighbors in whiter and less polluted areas.
When people have their lives cut by 20 years based on their neighborhood, it becomes clear that climate is connected to systems of discrimination based on race and class. Mines, smog, coal plants, and waste incinerators exist in these communities because profits have long been seen as more important than the lives of these people.
Look to the Future
The future of so many Americans depends on policies that keep us safe - from environmental hazards, losing our jobs, and losing our health. Many families will pay for Trump’s irresponsible policies with their lives.
“To dismantle the Clean Power Plan, like the current administration is trying to do is to continue, reinforce and abet the decades of willful neglect that have allowed powerful corporations to degrade the health, economic opportunities and well-being of our most vulnerable families, children and communities,” said Rev. Tony Pierce of Peoria, IL, the board president of Illinois People’s Action.
Trump’s policies build on one another to send a message, loud and clear, that he won’t put people first. Climate is just one piece of this puzzle.
If the GOP had succeeded in gutting healthcare, those who are chronically ill from pollutants would not have survived. Trump’s $54 billion bolstering of defense spending will increase the activity of one of the largest polluters in the world: the American military. The military not only compromises the health and safety of people worldwide, it is the third-largest polluter of American waterways, rivalled only by the fossil-fuel industry.
We wouldn’t have a climate crisis if people mattered more than the money reaped from destructive energy practices. The climate crisis is the product of centuries of structural racism, class oppression and the legacy of stolen land worked by stolen people.
We’ve been fighting, and we will continue to fight. Just as Trump carries on a legacy of exploitation, we will carry on our legacy of resistance. We won’t stop until we see a democracy and an economy that work for all of us to ensure our safety, health and security.