“Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.”
The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists this year advanced the hands of its ominous timepiece by 30 seconds, to two and a half minutes to midnight — the closest the clock has been to doomsday since 1953, when it was adjusted to reflect the threat of the escalating nuclear arms race. When the Board announced the unsettling news on January 26, the Trump presidency was a mere six days old. Nevertheless, the scientists cited it as a factor in their computations of the latest uptick in our slouch towards oblivion, referencing Trump’s “disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.”
Since January, the Trump Presidency has been busy aggravating what these scientists, along with most rational people, regard as the two chief existential threats to humanity — nuclear war and climate change — besides inaugurating what promises to be an utter frenzy of unfettered environmental destruction. The wrecking fest opened with the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline (which Justin Trudeau hastened to applaud) and an acceleration of the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline (in the wake of violent repression of the Standing Rock Sioux water protectors by the North Dakota state authorities).
Naming Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency was true to Trump’s pattern of putting locusts in charge of the grain silos. The former Oklahoma attorney general made a career of suing the EPA. Bill Moyers has described Pruitt as “a political profiteer whose career in public office is built on taking money from corporations and doing their bidding.” An inveterate foe of clean water and clean power, Pruitt will preside over the dismantling of the Agency and the wholesale repeal of environmental regulation by an administration that prefers wielding its regulatory powers to persecute refugees and suspend women’s reproductive rights.
As a state senator, Pruitt worked to restrict access to abortion while remaining silent on the spate of earthquakes in Oklahoma linked to drilling for oil and gas and the disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing. As attorney general, he supported so-called Right-to-Farm legislation (ultimately scuttled by voters) which essentially sought to shield from any regulation or reform the worst environmental and ethical transgressions of agribusiness — everything from the unhampered exploitation of labour and the brutal treatment of farmed animals to the continuing pollution of lakes, rivers and streams with runoff from animal waste.
For Trump, Pruitt and their profit-before-planet ilk, programs to protect children from exposure to lead paint and recommendations to ban the brain-damage-inducing pesticide chlorpyrifos are just so many impediments to industry, as are restrictions on emissions and pollutants aimed at protecting air and water quality, or the Endangered Species Act, which the Trump administration is craving to kill off with all the bloodlust of the trophy-hunting Trump sons.
As for the earth-shattering question of climate change, the White House is now the capital of denialism, with Obama’s Climate Action Plan heading up the Trump gang’s hit list. This is, after all, a president who, prior to his election, tweeted that the concept of global warming was concocted by the Chinese to undermine the competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing sector. One of the administration’s very first moves was to erase all references to climate change from the White House website.
Then came the executive order of March 28 mandating the EPA to review the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which had aimed to lower CO2 emissions from power plants. It was slightly encouraging to learn, early in April, that a coalition of 17 states led by New York has actually taken legal action in an attempt to prevent the rescinding of what modest measures had been put in place to lower greenhouse gas emissions. But then again, it was a legal challenge by a coalition of 26 Republican-governed states that successfully blocked the implementation of the Clean Power Plan to begin with.
Such is the depth of Trump’s planned assault on environmental regulation that it bathes his predecessors in a greenish light. As the U.S. turns back the clock on its already grossly inadequate measures to mitigate the most menacing ecological fallout from industrial capitalist civilization, the countdown to ecocide accelerates. And while some of the harm Trump & Co. wreak in other policy areas may ultimately be reversible, the injury to ecosystems will be all but irremediable.
A CD editor for the last 15 years and now a coodinating editor, Andrea is a Montréal-based historian, translator, journalist and activist.
This article appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Canadian Dimension (Fight for $15).