President Trump has picked Liz Szabo to take on the leading role in his administration’s war on climate change.
He wants to gut environmental protections. He doesn’t want to implement any clean energy measures.
But Trump can’t just ignore the climate problem. There is so much to do. And we need every single one of us to do our part—not just with good old-fashioned environmental preservation, but also with building inclusive and resilient communities that can withstand and mitigate the effects of extreme weather events and rapidly-warming temperatures.
One way people can do their part in raising the alarm is by pushing their representatives in Congress to do their part. Who do they need to call and tell to vote with the public on this crucial issue? Who do they need to get them to vote with the people who represent them?
They need to tell their senators and congresspeople to vote to fund the environmental agencies they oversee—the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, just to name a few. They need to tell their senators and congresspeople to vote to end the Trump/Pence Administration’s judicial nominees who are anti-EPA, anti-science, and have too many lawsuits against them. They need to tell their senators and congresspeople to not leave the voiceless on the front lines of climate change, but rather to be there when they need help.
The people who will bear the brunt of the climate emergency are those with little or no access to clean water, electricity, housing, and food. They live in rural areas without public transportation, or their homes are remote and exposed to natural hazards, or they work in dirty jobs like oil or coal mining.
And the people in communities like these are now being targeted for attack. What has happened is that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general who gave the green light to the Trump EPA to dole out 20 percent of its operating budget to fringe environmental activists working on activism against their fellow Americans, has followed up his docket of proposed EPA rule changes with cuts to funding for public health and labor programs and to cut the pay of EPA employees who understand those programs.
This reflects an attempt by the administration to intimidate people into compliance with climate laws by implying that they are not part of the community in which they live. This back-door blackmail is used to harass and threaten people to make them obey laws they will otherwise not follow.
If this White House wants to seriously fight climate change and protect the most vulnerable Americans, instead of escalating such hostile attacks, they should need only to implement pro-people solutions to curb carbon pollution, like the strategy mentioned in several recent Al Gore speeches, the Advancement Project’s “21st Century Clean Energy Blueprint,” and recent and previous reports produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, and others that have proposed funding to the EPA and EPA-supported initiatives that would keep electricity prices lower, conserve energy, and provide opportunity for people who haven’t been able to earn income from the dirty energy sources that account for 42 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
People of color, women, and lower-income communities are most at risk for climate disasters. We need to increase our economic and employment opportunities so our communities can adapt to climate change—a solution that includes such actions as programs that repurpose commercial waste and store it in existing buildings, community environmental justice initiatives to make buildings more energy efficient, and an infusion of federal funds so communities can plan how to minimize, or even completely avoid, the damages a major climate disaster will do to their community.
Moreover, we must build support for such financial schemes to address climate change by creating jobs that do not involve the pursuit of the profit motive. Such low-carbon jobs also provide useful skills that can be transferred to better jobs down the road, and stop people from suffering the false choice between their health and access to clean water, electricity, and housing.
It’s time to wake up to the war that the Trump Administration has declared on civil rights and public health. In the fight against climate change, we cannot let ourselves be duped again. We have to stand up for ourselves, for our communities, and for the Earth.
Annamie Paul is assistant legislative director at the Advancement Project, a national racial justice organization.