Photo of blue heron courtesy Nissa Beth Gay
This land is OUR land, to paraphrase the Woody Guthrie song This Land Is Your Land. I believe the song should be played over and over again to emphasize the fact that the nation’s natural resources are being threatened and abused by the Trump administration. A most recent illustration: Trump and his inner circle have been trying to find ways to allow drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean. Fortunately on March 30, 2019, a federal judge in Alaska reinstated a ban on this drilling. “The vast size, remote location, and extreme weather conditions—combined with the complete lack of infrastructure for responding to oil spills—make drilling in the Arctic Ocean extremely dangerous,” according to the Worldwildlife.org.
In February 2019, Trump appointed Andrew Wheeler as acting director of the Environmental Protection Agency. He has since been appointed as full-time director of EPA. Wheeler is a former lobbyist for the coal industry, a major air polluter. He has reversed or dismantled regulations on pollutants from coal power plants and automobiles. In short, by his actions air quality be damned across our land.
A little more than a month earlier on December 21, 2018, Trump issued an executive order to increase logging on federal lands—those are OUR lands, OUR forests. But the Departments of Interior and Agriculture are now allowed to cut down more forests and sell the timber. For what purpose? To make more money for more polluters?
Another assault on OUR lands is the construction of the Keystone XL (export limited) 1,200-mile pipeline project that would bring oil from Canada to the United States. The pipeline would connect a network of pipelines from Canadian oilfields to refineries on the U.S. Gulf coast. It has been controversial since its beginning and adamantly opposed by environmentalists and indigenous groups; there is a high risk of oil spills and damage to Native American sacred sites. On March 29, 2019, the White House issued permission for TransCanada, a Canadian company, to “construct, connect, operate and maintain pipeline facilities” in the United States. Anthony Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council noted in a Washington Post article that if the pipeline is built, “it would threaten our land, our drinking water, and our communities from Montana and Nebraska to the Gulf Coast. And it would drive dangerous climate change” (my emphasis).
And on December 26, 2018 New York Times investigators reported on “The Real-Life Effects of Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks,” noting that “No parts of the federal government during the Trump era have been more aggressive in rolling back rules than the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department….Together their rule changes have touched nearly every aspect of environmental protection, including air pollution caused by power plants and the oil and gas industry, water pollution caused by coal mines, and toxic chemicals and pesticides used by farmers nationwide.”
This Land is OUR Land, and as Guthrie’s song says, it’s “made for you and me.” So the Trump administration ought to protect out land and us from dangerous pollution of land, water, and air. But Trump apparently has no understanding of environmental protection nor does he and those in his orbit care. It’s all about the money, as so many pundits have put it.