Environmentalism is About More than Climate Change

If  Saturday’s March for Science did just one thing, I hope it underlined the message that protecting the environment is about much more than climate change, critical as that issue is.

Do the climate change deniers at least believe that children in Flint, Michigan,  and East Chicago, Indiana should have lead-free water to drink? What about the rest of us? Should Americans continue to have routine access to safe, potable water? Breathable air? Toxin-free fruits and vegetables?

How do Republicans justify Trump’s reversal of an Obama-era regulation to protect U.S. waterways from coal mining operations? (I don’t know about you, but to me, “Let them drink coal ash” sounds even worse than “let them eat cake.”) What about the elimination of information on methane emissions, removal of the word “science” from the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology mission statement, and the promised roll back of auto pollution standards?

Huffington Post has published a list of Trump’s anti-environment measures in just the first 90 days of his administration.

I’d be interested in hearing Todd (don’t confuse me with the facts) Rokita’s justification for the administration’s refusal to ban an insecticide that, as extensive research has demonstrated, harms the developing brains of fetuses and children who eat food from plants treated with the compound.

Much of the EPA’s own research outlines chlorpyrifos’s adverse health effects. In 2016 the EPA reported“sufficient evidence” that low levels affect brain development and concluded that some American 1- to 2-year-old children are receiving up to 140 times what are considered safe levels in their food. The EPA has also reported elevated levels in water supplies and established that the compound adversely affects 1,778 out of 1,835 studied species of wild animals.

I’ve noticed that all those pious “pro life” Republicans lose their zealous commitment to the well-being of the fetus when the threat to the unborn must be balanced against the health of corporate bottom lines, rather than the health of the mother.

Trump has issued Executive Orders that would undo both the Clean Power Act and the Clean Water Act.  According to those much-maligned scientists, reducing the scope of the Clean Water Act as called for in the Executive Order risks seriously degrading waters used for swimming, fishing or drinking.

Speaking of Republicans, incomprehensible as it may seem today, it was a Republican President–Richard Nixon– who established the EPA that is under such relentless attack from today’s GOP.  As Nixon stated in his 1970 State of the Union address to Congress,

“Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions. … Clean air, clean water, open spaces – these should once again be the birthright of every American.”

Well, times (and the GOP) have certainly changed. As U.S. News recently reported,

Currently, there is a systematic attempt to undermine this legacy. President Donald Trump proposes to slash the EPA’s budget by 31 percent and reduce its workforce by 3,200 employees – the harshest cuts in the agency’s history. But the environmental problems for which the agency is responsible have not shrunk or even stayed constant; instead they’ve grown significantly since the 1970s. The U.S. population has grown by over 100 million, economic activity has quadrupled, electricity use has tripled and the inventory of toxic substances has grown to over 85,000 compounds.

Every elected official who supports this assault on the EPA is supporting the presence of particulates, smog and greenhouse gases in the air we breathe, lead and coal ash in the water we drink, and toxic pesticides in the food we eat.

We need to challenge them to deny that.


  1. In 1970, we could see the smog and smell it. That was all there was supposed to be. Then these crazy scientists come up with lead. Nobody can see that – nobody can smell lead — so, to the Rokitaites, it just doesn’t exist.
    And, not content with that, the “silly-sci folks” just keep ’em coming. Is there no end to the poisons the EPA throws at us?
    (note: wording is sadly, meant to be satirical)

  2. “Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions. … Clean air, clean water, open spaces – these should once again be the birthright of every American.”

    The above statement by Nixon, while POSSIBLY well-intended, is as he often tried to do, over-reaching all boundaries. Once destroyed, nothing can be returned to its natural state, it can only be improved within certain limitations.

    I watched a movie Saturday night, “The Theory of Everything”, the story of world renown physicist Stephen Hawking’s battle with ALS which destroyed his physical being but did not destroy his astonishing mental capabilities. Medical scientific research is vital in seeking control, if not a cure, of this debilitating affliction. When Michael J. Fox spoke before Congress after days of not taking medication to provide the limited control of his Parkinson’s Disease, he was accused of seeking pity. How else could he show the violent, uncontrollable symptoms and the vital need for continuing scientific research involving stem cells, to control this horrible disease? “A picture is worth a thousand words.” fits here; the written description of Parkinson’s or ALS symptoms can never express the horrors of those diseases. I have lost my two oldest sons to cancer within a 16 month period; how much of our polluted environment can be blamed? Without EPA regulations; the killing of America will continue. Past, present and future spills and deliberate dumping of hazardous waste will accelerate at an alarming rate.

    Karen Silkwood’s research into the dangers of bare-bones safety precautions working with plutonium and mining uranium which caused many forms of cancer cost her her life in addition to those lost to cancer. Eric Brochovich uncovered the deadly practices of Pacific Gas and Electric cancer epidemic. Jon Schlictman’s work to uncover the dumping of hazardous waste by the many businesses owned by Beatrice Foods cost him his reputation and his livelihood.

    They continued their work along with many others to protect lives; thousands of lives effected and/or lost by levels of pollution defiling our environment due to IGNORING the hard-fought basic EPA regulations. Now we will lose those regulations so big businesses and the mega-wealthy can reap higher profits. We must include the continuing battle to repeal the ACA with the loss of EPA; they are interconnected. The loss of many of our rights and protective regulations are based in profits but can also be directly connected to removing any and all protections provided by the Democratic party – most recently enacted by President Barack Obama – our FIRST Black president.

    Racism and money!

  3. And Nixon’s first EPA administrator was William Ruckelshaus (from Indiana) , who later was tapped by Reagan to clean up the mess his administrator, Anne Gorsuch made of the superfund program. Yes, the mother of Neil Gorsuch. That tells you what we can expect from him.

  4. I think we all recognize that Marches on Earth Day will not be enough. We must quickly become organized enough to fight daily to demand that the EPA not be destroyed and that public lands not be allowed to be mined. The only way to win this battle is to keep it at the forefront of everyone’s attention and then the supporters will increase in numbers, which will then force congress to wake up and listen to us.

  5. This is the worst assault on our planet since the meteors killed the dinosaurs.

  6. It is plain to see that public health and environmental controls are or should be irretrievably intertwined and that politicizing the process amounts to a new low in the battle of corporate profit over life and death and the well-being of those who consume corporate goods and services – a strange and circuitous outcome in business plan logic in which corporations are killing and maiming their own customers. How is it that those who go to the mat on abortion are involved in poisoning those who come to term in the name of free market ideology? How have we, in short, decided to debunk science or any other impediment to the myopic pursuit of profit by those who have the wherewithal to fund the campaigns of their legislative toadies who in turn give public approval to what amounts to criminal conduct?

    Greed comes in many forms and disguises, and Trump’s pro-greed proposals including but not limited to muzzling the EPA amount to his joining in on the slaughter.

  7. American companies had their way with the environment from the time industrial revolution began. The “Free Market” was allowed to pollute to their hearts content. The “Free Market” did not impose any rules or regulations on itself. The guiding principal was that anything that inferred with Profit was by definition wrong. The EPA not only brought in rules and regulations, but also was tasked with cleaning up the roughly 140 years of “Free Market” pollution. We are still cleaning the mess up.

    With the Trumpet and the “Free Market” ideologues in charge what progress we have had since Nixon brought in the EPA will be reversed. The Republicans have managed in their messaging to make the Government, especially the Federal Government as the villain.

    Robin Hood was the traditional hero of the working and peasant class. Today, the Republicans via slick marketing have made the Trumpet (The Modern version of the Sheriff of Nottingham) the hero of the story.

  8. I’ve never been a fan of the word “environmentalism” because it’s so abstract. What does it even mean really?

    To me the concept is focus on the future for all life. Not the past. Not just mankind. Not the wealthy. Not the poor. Not the indigenous or immigrants. All life from here forward.

    The only insight we have into the future is science and while it’s not perfect it’s way better than all other tools we have.

    So denying science (which is a black and white issue given how it is documented in textbooks and it’s precise wording and penchant for quantification, peer review and reproducibility) is compromising the future for some life.

    Why would anybody be against the future of life?

  9. Participating here has made me appreciate the similarities between science, my field, and law, Sheila’s (plus others here) field.

    Both are precise word constructs. Both are religiously quality controlled, law by precedent and science by peer review. Both are limited by human intelligence.

    Science aims to figure out and document natural reality. What are the laws of the universe.

    Law aims to create reality for society. What works best for all of us together.

    Passing thought.

Comments are closed.