- Views & Opinions
With Donald Trump taking a “wrecking ball” to climate efforts, environmental activists are rising up to stage a massive display of opposition on Earth Day. A series of legal battles will follow.
The president — who has called global warming a “hoax” invented by the Chinese — signed an executive order in late March to eliminate many restrictions on fossil fuel production and roll back Barack Obama’s plans to curb carbon emissions.
The order requires a review of Obama’s Clean Power Plan and a rule on hydraulic fracturing, lifts a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands and rescinds Obama’s executive orders on climate change.
Days before Trump signed the order, his administration announced the State Department had signed off on a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
“The wrecking ball that is the Trump presidency continues,” said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the chair of an initiative that created the nation’s first cap-and-trade program to cut carbon pollution from power plants.
Kimmell said the administration is guilty of abdication of responsibility, because “seas are rising, droughts are becoming more commonplace, the Mountain West’s wildfire season is getting longer and we’re seeing more record-breaking temperatures. The fingerprints of climate change are everywhere.”
Multiple lawsuits against the executive order and both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline permits are in the works, with challenges from environmental groups, Native American tribes, hunting organizations and coalitions of Democratic-led states.
Meanwhile, environmental groups at every level are coordinating responses to the Trump administration around Earth Day, which is April 22.
“This isn’t going to be a kumbaya kind of Earth Day,” said Milwaukee environmental activist Tamarind Jones. “We are rising up against Trump — like a tidal wave.”
The global environmental group 350.org is involved in coordinating the People’s Climate March April 29 in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of solidarity marches also are planned.
Said Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org, “The Trump administration wants to shock us into despair and inaction, but since inauguration we’ve seen what can happen when people in this country mobilize: Trumpcare? Withdrawn. Muslim ban? Blocked. Next, we’re taking on Keystone XL, coal expansion, rollbacks to our basic rights to clean air and water — Trump’s entire fossil fuel agenda.”
Maura Cowley, People’s Climate March campaign coordinator for the Sierra Club, said demonstrators also will call for the United States to uphold its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. Trump has said he’ll decide in May the fate of the international pact to tackle climate change.
“A large majority of the public wants climate action and supports the Paris agreement,” Cowley said. “And we intend to make that absolutely clear to Trump in the streets of Washington, D.C., and in marches around the world.”
The People’s Climate solidarity march and rally in Wisconsin takes place April 22 in Madison.
An announcement from the environmental group 350 Madison said, “We will march for our families. We will march for our air, our water and our land. We will march for clean energy jobs and climate justice. We will march for our communities and the people we love. And we will be louder and stronger than ever before.”
The Madison march takes place on Earth Day. That’s a week earlier than the D.C. march — both to avoid conflicts with other capital events and allow for Wisconsinites to travel to D.C.
“I will be there in Madison to say no to Donald Trump’s dirty agenda and no to Scott Walker’s dirty agenda,” said Jones. “And I’ll be there with thousands of friends.”
Earth Day March for Science
Some of Jones’ friends will be wearing lab coats, as April 22 also is the date of the March for Science in Madison and more than 300 other cities around the world.
Author and educator Bill Nye, “the Science Guy,” is an honorary co-chair of the global action.
“We can solve problems, build extraordinary structures, explore space, fabricate exquisite instruments and feed billions, because we have embraced science — the means by which we have come to know nature,” Nye said in a statement for the march. “Science is the key to our future. It is in no one’s best interest to ignore what we discover. Instead, we acknowledge the facts we find, celebrate discoveries, make scientifically informed, fact-based decisions and march forward ensuring a better tomorrow for people all over the world.”
Earth Day, the eco-holiday celebrated around the world on April 22, was pioneered by a U.S. senator from Wisconsin — Democrat Gaylord Nelson.
Nelson, who died in 2005, had wanted to turn attention in the United States to the environment. And so, he pushed for an annual observance to encourage the people on the planet to protect species and spaces by recycling, reusing and, perhaps most importantly, reducing.
In 1970, when the first Earth Day took place, Americans burned leaded gas in massive V8 engines. Factories belched smoke and sludge. Air pollution signaled prosperity.
An estimated 20 million people took part in the first Earth Day celebrations. A billion people are expected to participate in activities this year.
Opportunities to get involved in Wisconsin include conferences, cleanups, concerts and more.
Here’s a selection of the opportunities — but for a lengthier list, go online to www.wisconsingazette.com:
n April 18 brings the 11th annual Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison. “Hope and Renewal in the Age of Apocalypse” features Orleans author Sherri L. Smith, Station Eleven author Emily St. John Mandel, and Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand. For more, go to nelson.wisc.edu.
n April 22 sees the 22nd annual Spring River Cleanup, which is coordinated by Milwaukee Riverkeeper and takes place at more than 50 locations in the Milwaukee River Basin. For more, go to milwaukeeriverkeeper.org.
n April 22 also marks Rock the Green’s sixth annual Earth Day Celebration in Estabrook Park, with music by Trapper Schoepp and presented by Milwaukee Riverkeeper. For more, go to rockthegreen.com.
n April 22 finally brings the Earth Day Park Pick Up at Warner Park in Madison, coordinated by the United Way’s Rosenberry Society. For more, go online to unitedwaydanecounty.org.