The E.P.A. Has a Duty to Protect the Environment — and So Do You

 The summit of Mt. Elbert, Colorado's tallest peak.

The summit of Mt. Elbert, Colorado's tallest peak.

It’s been a rough few months for those who care about the environment, and the federal government’s role in protecting it: from Scott Pruitt’s confirmation as head of the EPA, to the destruction of the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock Indian Reservation: if you care about the future of our planet, you have reason to be worried.

Pruitt is a proponent of relegating the duty of environmental protection from the federal government to the states. He sued the EPA dozens of times as the Attorney General of Oklahoma, claiming they overstepped their legal boundaries when regulating oil and gas extraction in his home state. On the surface, this might seem like conservatism at its finest, but after thousands of emails were released detailing the cozy relationship between Pruitt and the oil & gas industry, we can see it’s a thinly veiled attempt at influencing regulations in a way beneficial to his donor-constituents.

The Oceti Sakowin camp was a protest camp built to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, based on fears that it would contaminate native drinking water. The Trump Administration has declared that the pipeline will be built.

As head of the EPA, Pruitt has announced that they will roll back some of the more “heavy-handed” federal regulations, such as the Clean Air Act. For those of us concerned with the quality of our water and our air, the very natural resources the EPA was chartered to protect, this is alarming.

Pruitt has also consistently “rejected the established science of human-caused climate change”, choosing instead to believe that environmental regulations have consistently destroyed job opportunities for millions of Americans.

At a time when President Trump’s budget proposals seeks to increase military spending by $469 billion over ten years, alongside sweeping cuts of up to 31% to the EPA and other environmental watchdogs, the lobbying of the general public becomes more and more important: if you disagree with the stance the government is taking on anything — be it immigration, education reform, or climate change — then now is the time to speak up, and make your voice heard.

Certain controversial issues are political; immigration being the most poignant in today’s current climate. Yet climate change is real, based in hard science: there is no denying the fact that humans are accelerating the rate of the warming of the planet. This is undisputed by scientific experts; those who deny that climate change are not experts in this field. An astrophysicist has no reasonable standing to declare a court’s ruling null and void because they don’t like the outcome, even though all due legal process was followed…the same can be said for a politician dismissing the findings of NASA scientists because the facts do not suit their agenda.

If you are someone who cares about the effect humans have on our planet, it is your duty to educate both yourself and others about the effects of climate change, and what we can all do to help. The EPA — the Environmental Protection Agency — is in dire straits. It’s headed by an individual who has cozied up to special interest groups with a vested interest in loosening environmental regulations for their personal benefit, at the expense of the protection of our lands, water, and air.

Climate change is real, and the effect humans have on their environment is real as well. Organizations such as Protect Our Winter (POW), seek to educate the general public about climate change, and are currently fundraising to distribute toolkits to grassroots chapters across the country seeking to make a change in their communities. The National Resources Defense Council, an organization fighting for sustainable legislative policies surrounding climate change, is always in need of donations. The Sierra Club is constantly gathering signatures for petitions to send to elected representatives, in an effort to sway them to vote for favorable environmental regulations.

Over the next four years, the Trump Administration will fight to protect the environment — the natural world that we all love to experience. That burden now falls on the people like you and me — the travelers of the world, those who seek experience in an effort to educate their friends about the possibilities of different places, and the fragility of the natural world — to do something about this.

If you care about the environment, and how we as a race treat it, then take action. Educate yourself about climate change and fossil fuel extraction techniques. Make yourself conscious of your personal effect on the environment — from how much you drive your car, to how many plastic shopping bags you use — and hold yourself accountable to reasonable standards of consumption. Donate to an organization promoting community education, and advocating for the environment.

As a traveler, the world is your oyster; there are countless places to visit throughout your lifetime. Take a stand, and ensure that they will be there for countless generations to come.