Environmental policy at risk of losing attention

I remember walking into my Environment and Politics recitation last semester, two days after the election. I was still in a daze and hadn’t fully processed the results. Our TA had prepared an exercise for the class that would help us understand what a Donald Trump presidency would mean for the environment. We spent the next hour and a half filling the board with his proposed actions, comments, and tweets. The board was covered with words that blatantly contradicted almost everything we had learned. It was a sobering experience that I can’t help but consider as the inauguration approaches.

I hoped it would get better, and to some extent, it has. When Trump acknowledged that there may be some “connectivity” between human activity and climate change, I was optimistic. That feeling was reinforced when Trump held a meeting with Al Gore, who later regarded it as a “very productive session.” When he referred to himself as an environmentalist, I desperately wanted that to be a reality. But, I know that an environmentalist wouldn’t pick a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. An environmentalist wouldn’t be “open-minded” towards environmental issues, or refer to them as “not something that’s so hard and fast.” It terrifies me that, on the topic of climate change, Trump has stated that “the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98,” as if that nonfact could counter such a far-reaching and comprehensively studied issue.

I truly want to believe that I’m too focused on the negatives. I want this to just be another one of Trump’s inconsistencies, but his actions as president-elect have forced me to stop being so naive. While there are other aspects of a Trump presidency that worry me, this one in particular is not based in my gender, sexual orientation, or any other part of my personal life. It is based in years of scientific research. It has a timeline that is inflexible, and consequences that are often irreversible. Everyone is affected by pollution, droughts, and the melting of glaciers, albeit sometimes disproportionately, regardless of that person’s political ideology.

When such a pressing issue is not a priority for the president, it becomes the responsibility of the public to ensure that it still reaches the political agenda. Climate change can be confronted on more than just a federal level. There are plenty of things that you can do. Whether it’s reducing your food waste, buying a reusable water bottle or travel mug, boycotting plastic bags, making your daily actions more energy efficient, or reaching out to the people that represent you in government, we do not have four years to wait.