BY PASCALE MONTGOMERY
From the appointment of Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, it appears that President Donald Trump’s ideas for improving the country may not be promising for the planet, something that has been cause for concern for many citizens, scientists and nonprofits.
With the constant buzz of the news and negative articles about the president circulating, it is difficult for many to differentiate between fact and character attack. “When will our country stop wasting money on global warming and so many other truly ‘stupid’ things and begin to focus on lowering taxes,” Trump tweeted in 2014.
Environmental issues used to be an important bipartisan matter, according to Beth Pratt-Bergstrom, the California regional director for the National Wildlife Federation.
“Nixon passed the Endangered Species Act, The Clean Air and Water Acts, while Ronald Reagan helped with protecting the mountain lions in California,” Pratt-Bergstrom says.
The political approach to environmental policy has shifted.
In order to bring back coal mining, the current administration is trying to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, signed by President Barack Obama to regulate fossil fuel emissions and take action on climate change.
“These regulations exist for a reason—to ensure the health and safety of the American people and to protect our environment—those are not burdensome reasons,” the NWF California regional director says.
Not just Trump is reversing older policies. The state department is discussing decreasing the regulations of offshore drilling, and the health of marine ecosystems could be at stake.
“The entire coast of the U.S. is threatened by this Administration’s actions,” says Katherine O’Dea, executive director of Save Our Shores, a local organization founded to promote awareness, action and advocacy along Monterey Bay. “Opening up new areas for oil, gas and/or mineral exploration threatens the health of our oceans and our coasts and all the species that depend on a marine ecosystem.”
One of the oldest environmental protection laws, designed to protect migrating birds, is being repealed, making it legal to kill even protected birds. This could involve serious setbacks in the monitoring and protection of these endangered and migrating animals.
The current administration is also in the process of reducing several national monuments.
“Trump recently cut the size of Utah’s national parks down in order to allow protected lands to be mined for fossil fuels,” Carmel High senior Kelly Rice notes. “If he were able to open his eyes, he would see that he’s incentivizing a dying industry that bases its entirety off a limited resource that requires unsustainable practices. He could be supporting other industries like renewable energy.”
The current administration has also decreased information about climate change on government websites available to the public.
“We were making really good progress for a while, but certain decisions that have occurred have really affected people’s views,” says Monterey Bay Aquarium volunteer Savannah Chappell, who has noticed that people visiting the exhibits question the science of climate change. “Some people start to tell me that if Trump doesn’t believe it, so why should I believe it?”
According to AP Environmental Science teacher Jason Maas-Balwin, issues arise when people begin to question facts.
“Science is ‘what is,’ based on facts. Policy is what to do about it,” Maas-Baldwin says.
Differences in policy are healthy, Maas-Baldwin explains, but doubting scientific facts is risky. Regarding the future of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the future is still promising even with Trump’s looming opposition.
“It is highly unlikely that this administration can do much to eliminate sanctuary status for the Monterey Bay,” O’Dea says.
With the increase in possible environmental threats from the current administration, more people have reached out to non-profits.
“In response to President Trump’s lack of support for the environment, a lot of people have donated to ensure that environmental nonprofits are able to continue their conservation work,” says Shay Hlavaty, Communications Associate for Save Our Shores.
On a more local level, there are various ways students can get involved in protecting the Marine Sanctuary and ensuring that their local ecosystems stay healthy and beautiful.
As Hlavaty says, “Overall, reducing your environmental impact on a daily basis makes a big difference for the Sanctuary.”