Environmental Issues and the New U.S. Administration | September-December 2017

September-December 2017

Environmental Issues and the New U.S. Administration by Al Usack

This paper will be an attempt to evaluate the impact on environmental issues of the recent election both nationally and in many states of a large number of far right activists, many of whom are climate change deniers. It will not be a paper on climate change as such – I have already addressed that issue in the Issue of the Quarter for January-March of 2017. Also, because of the complexity of the issues involved, I will not include detailed discussions about everything that has or may be done to threaten the environment. See some supporting documents on the Social Justice table and/or search the internet for more detail on specific issues.

To start off, almost all climate scientists have concluded that the earth is warming and that a major cause of that warming is human activities. Nevertheless, our President, our Governor and a large number of legislators deny this is true. And, to add to this dilemma, at the Federal level and in many states the departments that should be addressing environmental concerns are also climate change deniers. Thus many measures to protect the environment that were put in place by previous administrations are being defunded and scrapped. Combined with these measures, numerous protective safety laws are being eliminated in order to “reduce and simplify” regulations.

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So now that the U.S.A. has become the only country in the world which is not a member of the Paris Climate Agreement, there are no longer any national goals for reducing carbon (or for that matter, methane) production. And, with the elimination of regulations such as on contamination of streams, corporations can pretty much do what they like in order to increase output. Meanwhile, the rest of the world probably led by Chinese know-how is doing its best to reduce carbon consumption and the U.S. will probably forego it’s leadership role.

The United States was taking some significant steps to replace fossil fuels but the new administration, with the questionable claim that if more coal is produced, many more workers will be hired by the industry, is pushing for more coal production. Moreover, they are opening up national reserve and park areas to mining and agricultural use which will have a negative impact on the ecology of the areas concerned. Similarly, regardless of the danger to the environment there are calls for more production of petroleum from Alaska, from offshore reserves, or from anywhere else that may have oil reserves. And, the leaders are calling for more fracking in order to increase natural gas production. Fracking requires huge amounts of sometimes scarce water and there is evidence of increases in the number of earthquakes in areas where fracking is used In the meantime, efforts by the electric power companies in places like Florida are hindering private development of solar energy production in order to maintain control over all solar energy production.

Probably the warming of the oceans is the major concern as the climate changes. Sea life and climate will be vastly affected by the changes in temperature. So far, the present administration is neglecting any action to combat these changes. Also, efforts to protect coral reefs in U.S. waters are no longer a priority and unless local governments get involved probably not much will be done . These reefs provide important protection for sea life. And, of course, the lower sections of many major cities and towns will be flooded more and more. So far, except for some local jurisdictions, there is no evidence of concern or of plans to counter this flooding. Of course, poorer people will be impacted the most and many government officials seem not to care at all about that.

One area that you hear very little about is the effects of factory farming on the environment. The wastes from factory farming are a major source of methane pollution which is even worse than that of carbon. No longer do the farmers spread manure on their fields. Instead it is mostly collected in large pools where it could easily contaminate the area around it. Again, regulations are highly important to make sure that seepage does not spoil the neighboring environment.

I could go on to talk about such things as an education system that is gradually being taken over by plutocrats that ignore environmental issues and seek to control the curriculums. Or tax support for having more children and elimination of abortion and perhaps even contraception so population will increase to provide more employees for the rich will also help increase pollution. Other factors include increased noise pollution that will affect sea life and the purposeful dumbing down of the population in order to keep control over a majority of the voters. Needless to say, it appears that our present leadership is really mostly interested in helping the rich and powerful rather than caring about everyone in our country and state.

So what can be done to counter the lack of environmental action at the national level and in many states. First of all, our Fellowship is recognized as a green sanctuary by the UUA. This means we could all remind ourselves of actions we can take as individuals and as a congregation to protect our environment. FoIlowing is a list of the actions we might take just as a reminder. Also, we can include environmental concerns in our political actions by supporting politicians that care. Finally, we can support or work with one or more of the numerous organizations that are working on environmental concerns. Some of those that I support financially are the Environmental Defense Fund, Earth Justice, Florida Wildlife Federation, Food and Water Watch, the National Park Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation, Nature Conservancy, Population Connection, Turtle Island Restoration, Union of Concerned Scientists, Manatee 88, and Planned Parenthood.

Tips to Lower your Carbon Emissions

Compiled by Zada Merrill from the book, “Cooler, Smarter” which is in the MUUF Library

  1. Remove your name from Junk Mail lists. 2. Walk, ride bicycles, use buses and trains. 3. Keep your vehicles serviced regularly. 4. Keep tire pressure at optimum levels. 5. Demand rapid transit trains from your representatives. 6. Demand solar roof panels for new construction from developers. 7. Use recycled water for gardens and golf courses. 8. Grow your own vegetables and herbs. 9. Use cloth bags for groceries. 10. Use compact fluorescent bulbs in your home, office and public buildings. 11. Buy energy star appliances. 12. Buy recycled paper for bath and facial tissue, invitations     and all paper needs. 13. Recycle newspapers, telephone books, stationery, plastic containers,     glass bottles. 14. Shop at your local fresh produce markets. Buy organic food products. 15. Use water sparingly; turn water off when brushing or shaving.     “Shower with a friend.” 16. East less meat; increase your meatless meals by one or two a week. 17. Don’t waste food; serve smaller portions. 18. Learn how to compost your waste vegetables. 19. Install composting toilets.