By: Molly Helfend
Where does the environment stand within the new Trump Administration?
(January - April)
This is a brief overview to familiarize readers with environmental actions that are surrounding our government right now. This focuses on regulations, policies and events that have officially been proposed, passed and occurred. Every couple of months, I will update House of Citrine readers with information surrounding the government and the environment. Many of us are feeling helpless when it comes to actually getting involved and making positive change while the Trump Administration is consistently shattering vital regulations and perplexing us with alarming messages. But, through my work at Greenpeace, I was taught a valuable lesson. I learned that instead of trying to move the entire tree, take one branch at a time. Some of the most influential change comes from focusing on our local communities and government. And, let me say, Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation is the quintessential example of this. I have listed some ways on how to get involved and personally cope with this pyrrhic government acting with impunity and an aginner motive towards the environment. Although this list may seem daunting and overwhelming, please allow honest education into your mind, body and soul to manifest optimism and hope. We can all make a difference, big or small, with unity and respect that will foster a healthy world. Feel free to comment and share your ideas on how we can all help!
Sarah Malik, political, social and environmental activist, has inputted some of her ideas and advice on how to help promote positive change. Cultured, worldly and sharp, Sarah used her unbiased opinions to properly introduce ways to get involved with issues surrounding the environment. You can read more about Sarah on her Wikimedia career page, or follow her brilliant travels on Instagram.
Disclaimer: These are her personal ideas and do not at all reflect the views of the Wikimedia Foundation.
What: The Climate March had over 200,000 protesters that marched to the White House to protest our government’s unfair stance and inaction on climate change.
When: April 29
Why does this matter: This large-scale climate march marked President Trump’s first 100 days in office. The night before the march, the Environmental Protection Agency took down the site devoted to the science of climate change. The administration has already moved to rid the government of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and taken many other actions to weaken air and water protections, in order to enable fossil fuel exploitation on public lands and in waters. Our environment is no longer a priority in the White House. The administration is currently deciding whether to remain in the Paris climate agreement.
What can you do: Get involved with peaceful protest marches in your area. They are mostly spread by word of mouth or social media, but it is helpful to check your local newspapers and bulletin boards.
What: The EPA removed the climate science webpage from its entire site. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s main climate change website is “undergoing changes” to better reflect “the agency’s new direction” under Donald Trump.
When: April 28
Why does this matter: This website was “conveniently” taken down the day before the Climate March. The public website previously conveyed greenhouse gas emissions data and reports on the effects of climate change and its impact on human health. JP Freire, an associate administrator for public affairs, said the government wants “to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”
What: Trump moved to expand offshore oil drilling and reconsider rules that safeguard the activity.
When: April 27
Why does this matter: “Trump on Friday ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to revise a five-year schedule for auctioning offshore drilling rights with the aim of potentially including territory left out by former President Barack Obama. Trump’s executive order also seeks to reverse a potentially more enduring decision by Obama to indefinitely withdraw most U.S. Arctic waters and some Atlantic Ocean areas from leasing…[this] executive order also instructs Zinke to review a raft of protections governing offshore drilling, including a measure designed to address shortcomings revealed by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, triggered when a BP Plc well blew out in the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting explosion killed 11 workers and spewed millions of barrels of crude” (Dlouhy, 2017).
What can you do: “Divestment from big banks that have financial stakes is often a difficult, but an important step that can be taken to essentially show where you want your money to go. Taking your money out of banks and putting it into credit unions has been an essential part of the movement to separate banks from offshore drilling. Read more here.” (Malik). Stop using Bank of America, HSBC, UBS, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase.
What: Donald Trump signed an executive order to review the protections of billions of public land that house more than two dozen national monuments.
When: April 26
Why does this matter: These monuments were declared by the last three presidents to preserve millions of acres from corporate development. This is in direct defiance of the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law introduced by President Teddy Roosevelt that gives presidents the power to protect federal land and waters by naming them national monuments. This is the first time any president has tried to shrink protected areas and rescind the designation of any national monuments’ status, putting wildlife and ecosystems at tremendous risk. Logging, mining, and overall destruction of national parks is precariously eminent if this passes. Yet another reason to love Patagonia, the company recently announced that they are threatening to sue Trump over this executive order. Read here.
What can you do: “The heart of the solution seems to rely on your wallet. Your financial support of public parks shows its worth to government. Visit and donate. Can poets save the parks?” (Malik).
What: The United States just lost the trade battle with Mexico over dolphin safe tuna.
When: April 26
Why does this matter: Not only is this the first “official” loss of the Trump era, but this is an issue that has been prevalent for many years. The US has demanded that any Mexican Tuna caught and sold to the US must not have any dolphins killed with them. Although Mexico claims their fisherman do not kill dolphins, the US disagrees. After years of fighting, the World Trade Organization ruled in Mexico's favor. This imposes trade sanctions worth $163 million a year against the U.S, as apparently that is what we owe Mexico. This is bad timing, as President Trump, who is already known to have poor negotiation skills, wants to renegotiate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico.
What can you do: “Start with a google search on: “how to choose ethical seafood”. The first three links that show up are: seafoodwatch.org, NRDC.org, and goodfishguide.org. Educating yourself is without a doubt the most important first step anyone can take when it comes to environmental health” (Malik). Watch what you put in your shopping cart and try to avoid buying unsustainable fish, or opt for none at all.
What: The March for Science took place, with more than 600 marches across the world, including Antarctica, on Earth Day.
When: April 22
Why does this matter: These noteworthy marches were non political. Hundreds of thousands of climate researchers, oceanographers, scientists and supporters rallied in marches, including at our National Mall in Washington DC, to raise awareness of the precarious situation between politicians and scientists. Scientists are “under attack” from the Trump Administration through budget cuts and regulatory policies.
What can you do: Get involved with the marches around your neighborhood or join the thousands in larger scale marches in Washington DC or New York. Create the fundamental shift with the power of your actions.
What: Energy Secretary Rick Perry is ordering a study of the United States’ consumption of renewable sources, primarily electric policies, to determine if they are more sustainable and economical than coal and nuclear.
When: April 14
Why does this matter: The 60-day review is really just a facade hiding a ponzi scheme to favor non-renewable energy corporations, so nuclear and coal are not accelerated into retirement. Since Trump has already been moving to dismantle Obama administration policies, which are surrounding the dismantlement coal-fired power plants for human and environmental health, this is Perry’s underhanded move to favor Trump and keep coal and nuclear alive. Switching to renewable sources actually creates jobs, contrary to what Perry believes. This article by the Washington Post is a great reference to learn more about where the EPA is heading.
What can you do: We will follow what happens in 60 days.
What: President Donald Trump donated his first quarter salary of $78,333.32 in the White House to the National Park Service.
When: April 3
Why does this matter: Tyrone Brandyburg, the superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, was given this check by Sean Spicer at a press briefing in front of the press. This move doesn't even make feasible sense, as Trump is proposing to cut the public lands budget by $1.6 billion. This move is an inconsequential “peace offering.”
What can you do: Support your community parks and public lands by attending consistently and treating them with respect. If upkeep will not be supported, hold community trash clean up days or simply pick up after you and your family.
What: Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new 64 page budget plan to eliminate even more programs, including two that are focused on limiting children’s exposure to lead-based paint.
When: April 1
Why does this matter: Lead is beyond dangerous to human health, causing such effects asdevelopmental issues in children. The EPA estimates that 38 million U.S. homes currently contain lead-based paint. Eliminating programs that educate the public and train workers on the safety procedures in removing lead-based paint is a human health violation. It prevents the EPA and environmental groups from being able to properly treat the prolonged situation. Read more on this budget plan here.
What can you do: Lead Safe America is a non-profit organization that supports safe lead testing throughout America. If you do have the means, invest in natural concrete roads and building materials. Looking into alternative house building methods is a great way to avoid lead and other toxic chemicals. Check out some of these sites:
What: The Trump Administration announced a proposed 23-page budget plan, which targets climate change programs and questions air and water pollution policies, would reduce the EPA’s budget by 25% ($8.1 billion).
When: March 31
Why does this matter: Slashing the EPA budget eliminates about 3,000 jobs, funding for environmental protection activities and various vital programs such as the Environmental Justice Office. This crucial department recognizes the disproportionate class systems and works to ensure that all people, regardless of race, nationality, income, gender or age, have equal ability and rights to remove and fight pollution in their neighborhoods. It provides grants and support to low income communities “to mop up toxins and rehabilitate abandoned industrial facilities that are invariably found in poorer areas” (Milman). The Obama administration worked with the EPA to introduce new efforts against toxic pollution from waste treatment plants that were “conveniently” located near low income and colored communities, but without the Environmental Justice Department, this plan will cease to exist. Almost all “funding for the cleanup of lead, marine pollution, tribal lands and the Great Lakes region [face] severe cuts, while climate initiatives are earmarked for a 70% budget reduction” (Milman).
What can you do: “Find your niche and get involved. Environmental organizations like Two Hands Project encourage and foster healthy learning about natural ways to clean up pollution” (Malik). Encourage your senators and congressman to pressure the federal government to invest time and learn more about clean up methods that are natural and deeply connected to our planet, making them the norm, such as plastic eating moths, radiation eating and plastic eating fungi.
What: The EPA refused to ban the neurotoxic, organophosphate insecticide, Chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to extreme health hazards
When: March 31
Why does this matter: Scientific evidence has documented the harmful health repercussions of Chlorpyrifos to children’s brains such as increased risk of learning disabilities, developmental delay, autism and ADHD. Since it is sprayed on such agricultural crops as apples, oranges, strawberries, and more, it can easily cause damage to children that ingest it. Scientific evidence prove that our fruits and vegetables are not safe, yet canard from the Trump administration says otherwise. This has furthered the evidence of that new department of the EPA is delaying regulations for air quality, pesticides and formaldehyde emissions.
What can you do: Agricultural corporations will always feel the impacts of consumers if they stop buying products. Buying local, organic produce is essential when trying to avoid pesticide consumption. Even better, is buying directly from farmers markets or visiting farms yourself. Work with your local neighborhood to create community gardens and nutrition based programs in schools. A great way to teach your children about healthy eating is by plant a garden in your backyard. You will save money and feel the positive of effects of clean food and nature. If money is truly a concern, there are healthy eating budgeting websites such as Choose My Plate. The truth is, the excuse that eating healthy is more expensive just is not true. With the health bills that will add up later in life, you are actually saving money. “Start a conversation with your community about who to patronize and who to avoid. Shift consumer habits and it can have a big impact” (Malik).
What: The House passed the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act, or HONEST Act, which would prohibit the EPA from writing any regulations that use science that is not publicly available.
When: March 29
Why does this matter: The EPA is not perfect, but it is not a conspiracy organization. They are not actively trying to undermine all public health and environmental safety. By restricting the kind of scientific studies and data the EPA can use, the EPA’s hands become tied with actually passing important environmental regulations. Instead of working towards advancing clean energy technology and regulating pollution, “the HONEST Act is intended to handcuff the EPA, [as] it would irresponsibly leave the EPA unable to write important regulatory protections, since the agency might not have the ability to release some parts of the scientific data underpinning them” (Cama). Simply put, this bill has nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics. This poison is spreading like wildfire and now has led to new claims that phrases like “climate change”, are banned from being used in The Office of International Climate and Clean Energy.
What can you do: Educate yourself with science-based literature or documentaries. Try to be careful when reading on the internet, as much of the information can be slanted to either side. Taking a science course at your local college or online is another great way to get more informed.
What: Trump signed an executive order to halt intended environmental regulations, including Obama’s Clean Power Plan, to pursue energy independence.
When: March 28
Why does this matter: The Clean Power Plan sought to cut carbon emissions by 32% by 2030, close and limit the production on hundreds of coal plants, and replace these with renewable energy sourcing facilities. This new order pushes for an increase in the production of coal and the reintroduction of obsolete coal mining jobs, which are harmful to human and environmental health.
What can you do: “There are not even that many active coal mines, so it is important to invest in renewables like solar, wind and biomass” (Malik).
What: Trump signed a proposal that restricts the Bureau of Land Management’s power to conserve public lands for future use.
When: March 27
Why does this matter: It gives states and local government almost no input on land usage in their own backyards and communities. Public land could be sold off to corporations, ignored or even degraded, promoting environmental devastation. Since this proposal, the Trump administration has completely shut out the public from scientific information and discussions happening on public land use. This information is essential for transparency with land that we not only live on, but use for recreational purposes.
What can you do: Although this may seem counterintuitive for environmental reasons, the more you visit parks and public lands, the more money is poured in. The government cannot avoid seeing this increase in tourism and support.
What: The Senate repealed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule that forbids controversial and inhumane hunting on wildlife refuges in Alaska.
When: March 21
Why does this matter: Prized hunting animals, such as wolves and grizzly bears, as well as, bird species with exotic feathers, have been excessively hunted in previous years. Now, hunters can once again kill bear cubs and sows in their dens from overhead aircrafts and with inhumane traps and snares. The forbidding of these cruel hunting practices allowed for a healthy balance in the Alaskan ecosystems. Without it, hunters will mercilessly kill populations of animals for sport, creating a deficiency of animals for local hunters that actually use animal meat for their livelihoods.
What can you do: It is important to recognize the vitality of honoring hunting practices that are rooted in cultural traditions and actual means for survival with small tribes and communities. However, avoiding hunting for sport is essential when trying to save wildlife.
What: Trump revived the controversial Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Plan.
When: March 20
Why does this matter: This extremely controversial nuclear waste facility has been debated since the 1980s. It would cost an estimated $100 billion dollars, not including the cost of a highly potential radioactive spill. This would destroy the tourist industry in Nevada, as well as, leak into groundwater supplies. Nevadans are desperate to fight this plan to build the waste plant.
What can you do: In my opinion, this is the MOST IMPORTANT initiative you can take. This website will calculate your personal carbon footprint and you can donate money to offset your carbon emissions. You can literally give yourself a carbon tax.
What: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed a Secretarial Order to repeal the ban on lead ammunition in national parks.
When: March 2
Why does this matter: Hunters who use led munitions kill around 20 million birds and other animals because of lead poisoning every year. Extinction and endangered species lists will rise, as syntropic ecosystems are forced into instability. Non-lead munitions are actually a much more economic option, considering price and environmental consequences.
What can you do: Because federal funding will be decreased, personally investing in national parks will help them increase security measures. Avoid sport hunting at all costs.
What: Trump signed an executive order to dismantle the Clean Water Rule.
When: February 28
Why does this matter: This rule is protected under the federal Clean Water Act, which blows a large hole in the middle of the act, influencing it to become ineffective. The Clean Water rule expands the number of bodies of water under environmental protection. It clarifies and protects the waterways, including streams and wetlands, that should be protected for human consumption. These areas provide drinking water for over 117 million people, or 1 in 3 Americans. Human health is put at great risk.
What can you do: Identify a cause you are passionate about and volunteer! For example, find organizations that support waterways, estuaries and wetlands such as Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
What: The Senate confirmed Republican Oklahoma senator Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency
When: February 17
Why does this matter: Scott Pruitt is a conservative lawyer who stands up for the profits of business at the expense of human and environmental health. He has been an opponent of the EPA for years, having sued the EPA14 times in his career. He also negotiated a deal to allow poultry companies to not pay for their millions of dollars in pollution damage and clean up their chicken manure fouling from Oklahoma waters. He has even supported the interests of the corporate energy sectors over clean air and water regulations and public interests. He has zero experience running the EPA and even worse, disregards the existence of human-induced climate change.
What can you do: Write, call and attend meetings to get your mayor to commit to climate action. Make sure to seek out experts and invite commentary, so you are properly informed and can state your case with zeal.
What: Trump signed House Joint Resolution 38, reversing Obama’s environmental protection rule and allowing coal companies to dump coal mining waste into waterways.
When: February 16
Why does this matter: This is absolutely devastating to water ecosystems, as chemicals will seep into organisms and land. Mining debris and waste will flow into water supplies. This water is extremely dangerous for water consumption. Even at low concentrations, toxic pollutants like uranium, thorium, arsenic, mercury and lead will have dire health impacts on both rural and urban communities surrounding the waters. In addition, landscapes will be eroded, leading barren wastelands around lakes and rivers and aquatic life will become extinct. Read more about coal impacts on water here.
What can you do: This subject breaks my heart and I give my love to the rural communities that deal with this on a daily basis. I would say the greatest course of action is to join a local environmental rights group and schedule community clean up days. Donate to save endangered animals and wildlife, so we can find them safer homes if need be.
What: Trump signed House Joint Resolution 41, which repeals the Extraction Payment Disclosure Rule. This means that oil, gas, mining and other extraction energy companies no longer have to follow transparency measures and disclose their royalties and payments to governments.
When: February 14
Why does this matter: This promotes extreme corruption between governments and corporations. We have no idea the uneven distribution of money going on within this corporate sector. It also was later released that the Trump administration gave away millions of dollars in royalties from coal extracted on public lands back to coal companies. That money belongs to central and local governments that protect the land from continued extraction.
What can you do: Although previously stated, excoriate your feelings about this with your community and spread awareness, so everyone knows which companies are being corrupt.
What: Trump signed executive orders to officially allow the restart and completion of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
When: January 24
Why does this matter: Not only will this not deliver “significant profits” to Americans, like Trump has promised, it is just a matter of time when the pipelines will burst and spills hundreds of thousands of crude oil onto scared and pure land. It is also a gross human rights violation, as the administration recently burned the Sacred Rock Protest Camp to the ground and evicted all of the protesters left behind. Even more absurd, Trump has promised that these projects will “create thousands of jobs”. With this statement being partially correct, these jobs are completely temporary and would not be prudent or economically feasible. The “Keystone pipeline would create about 3,900 construction jobs if it was built in one year, according to a State Department report…[and] that number would drop to 1,950 jobs if the Alberta-to-Nebraska pipeline takes two years to build. The State Department also estimates that about 16,100 additional jobs will be created during the construction via firms awarded contracts for materials and services. However, once Keystone is completed, only 35 permanent employees would be needed to operate the pipeline along with 15 temporary contractors” (Egan). The administration is treating American workers as roustabouts, using the pipeline as an excuse to further the profits and esoterica of oil corporations. To also add more insult to injury, in an ironic twist, the pipeline would not even be able to use American steel, which Trump consistently boasts about pursuing.
What can you do: As previously stated, I urge divestment. Protest and urge divestment on your college campuses. Stop using Bank of America, HSBC, UBS, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. Simply, pulling your investments from fossil fuel supporting companies is a vital step in the right direction.
What: Newly appointed Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao rejected the $674 million proposal to electrify the Caltrain.
When: January 24
Why does this matter: This California rail system carries about 60,000 commuter riders a day between San Francisco and the South Bay. This move would have not only saved money on operating costs, but also would have switched diesel-driven trains to faster and more energy efficient models. This was the start of the plan to introduce a high speed rail that would cross California.
What can you do: Write letters to personal state representatives and tell them about how the Caltrain would positively impact you and your family’s life. Try not using your car for a day or so and support local transportation methods. The community will feel these impacts and will encourage healthy local economic growth.
What: Trump administration sent out an email that told the EPA to freeze all grants and contracts.
When: January 20
Why does this matter: This move affects “everything from state-led climate research to localized efforts to improve air and water quality to environmental justice projects aimed at helping poor communities” (Dennis and Eilperin). Since this move, Scott Pruit and his team have been moving to reduce emission standards, as well as refusing to not acknowledge the existence human-caused climate change, by completely removing it from government agendas. As the ball keeps rolling, the Trump Administration is now pushing to remove the US from the Paris Climate Change Accord. Even Exxonmobil, where former chief executive and now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson worked, has pushed to not pull us out of a world nation peace treaty such as this. As one of the most powerful nations in the world, this move gives off the appearance that our country is nescience.
What can you do: Leverage social media for states that are underrepresented in this conversation. Reach out across the globe and use social media for positive influence.
Molly Helfend is part of the HOC team and is an herbalist and environmental activist. She graduated from University of Vermont in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Holistic Health. She will be attending University of Kent in Canterbury, England to receive her Masters Degree in Ethnobotany in 2017. She has worked for Urban Moonshine, Greenpeace and received her training with Spoonful Herbals. Her goal is to receive her PHD and become a professor at University of California Santa Cruz. Molly resides in Monte Nido, California.