Public Health and the Environment Will Suffer Under the New Administration, Fight Back.

One week down, and the environmental report is in regarding the new Administration:

Scientific data scrubbed from federal websites.  Two oil pipelines resuscitated.  Three Cabinet nominations of climate dissemblers pushed forward. 

And over two million people protesting in the streets.

It’s hard to focus on what’s truly important when a new outrage gets issued by executive order on a daily basis.  Today, it’s the immigration ban.  A few days ago, it was the chaos around the country’s health care law.  Before that, it was over the Administration’s “alternative facts.”

But this week, what’s truly important is that, in response to the inauguration, large numbers of people stood up, fought back, and resisted.  That’s the only response that’s ever won freedom in the past.  It’s the only force that’s persuaded those in power to lighten their yoke.

The Women’s March on Washington, along with all the Sister Marches around the country and around the world, united people with vastly different agendas behind a common purpose.  But it’s led others to wonder what holds it together, beyond opposition to Donald Trump.  For example, what does the movement for healthy people and a healthy planet have to do with women’s rights, civil rights, health care access, and economic justice?

In our opinion, everything.

When President Trump ordered federal agencies to reconsider plans to complete the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, it portended significant new climate emissions and water pollution and a renewed threat to sacred Native American burial sites, at the same time.

When Congressional Democrats grilled former climate deniers and Cabinet nominees Rex Tillerson, Scott Pruitt, and Rick Perry about climate science, the nominees did their best impression of “reasonable” – by consenting that climate change was not a Chinese hoax.  And then they added that it wasn’t something to worry too much about.  Maybe the impacts are not yet that visible where they live, but right now, climate disasters in low-lying communities are destroying life for low-income people of color all over the world.

And at the same time that the nominees were testifying, the White House was ordering all climate research down from its websites, and forbidding EPA officials from discussing the topic.

What binds our movement for healthy people to other social movements are the most basic rights we’ve asserted as Americans – the “preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We’re bound together by one of America’s core principles, not always carried out in practice – that inalienable rights belong to all, even to political minorities – and that through the First Amendment to the Constitution, we are all guaranteed the right to free speech, to assemble peaceably, to petition the Government, and to freely exercise our religious beliefs.

It’s not just that we’re fighting the same adversary.  It’s that our grievances spring from a common source.

Here in Michigan, we know those grievances all too well.  We’ve seen a predominantly African American city have its entire drinking water supply poisoned in the name of fiscal responsibility.  We’re home to the country’s most polluted zip code, on the southwest side of Detroit, the country’s largest majority-minority city.

We needed less than a week for the verdict to come down on the new Administration’s environmental directives.  In Michigan, we can see where things are headed if we don’t fight back.  We’ve seen what happens when science and people get ignored in the name of profit and power.  We’re not going to let that happen this time.  We’re not going down without a fight. 

-- Michael Garfield, Ecology Center Director

Published on January 30, 2017