I would like to start this article explaining why the environment is important to me. I often feel that people vastly misunderstand my reasons for investing my time and energy into environmental activism. While a love for nature did foster my interest in environmental issues, this fight is not about preserving vast swatches of land for the sake of looking at them. This fight is about human rights. This fight is about the protection of natural resources and the creatures that share the earth with us. This fight is about the preservation of the only planet we have.
That being said, Trump has vowed to almost completely defund the Environmental Protection Agency. To get the ball rolling, he has appointed Myron Ebell, a climate change denier, to lead the agency’s transition. Trump plans to lift restrictions on the use of shale, oil, gas, and coal. He plans to push for the installation of the Keystone and the North Dakota Access Pipelines. Instead of investing money into renewable energy sources, Trump will encourage the unsafe and environmentally unsound practice of fracking. He plans to cut back on the Climate Action Plan and our involvement in the Paris Agreement.
As the country with the highest per capita carbon emissions, these statements bear weight. The United States cannot continue to contribute to climate change on the scale that we currently do. Carbon emissions do not float in the air over the land between our national borders. When we pollute carelessly, it affects the world. This is not a privilege we get as a developed nation. We do not get to tell the residents of The Maldives that we don’t care that their island is sinking and taking their culture with it. We don’t get to tell the women drowning in floods that it is their fault they never learned to swim. We don’t get to tell Native Americans that their values and their health is not important to us. We don’t get to break valuable ecological links. These are not among the privileges given to us as a first world country.
Trump’s environmental policy, and the fact that the Dakota Access Pipeline has used the distraction of the election to push forward with their plans without scrutiny, has left me feeling defeated. It is easy to feel as if the fight has already been lost. It is easy to feel that there is no way for us to make progress without the support of at least one branch of government. However, I hold a position in the largest environmental organization at Rutgers. Six other strong, dedicated, and ambitious women make up the rest of Students for Environmental Awareness’s executive board and their newly fueled desire to make their voices, our voices, heard has inspired me. In the words that Elizabeth Kolbert, a Pulitzer Prize winning environmental journalist, scribbled in the front of my copy of Field Notes From a Catastrophe, “Keep fighting the good fight.”
We most certainly will.