Is there a single environmental measure that the Trump Administration isn’t willing to ditch in order to benefit their cronies bottom lines?
Regulations to combat climate change? Nah. It’s a hoax–and if it isn’t, God will protect us. Efforts to insure that the residents of cities and towns (even towns inhabited by black and brown people) have clean air and potable water? Silly you! What about protecting the natural beauty of Alaska’s pristine landscape so that future generations can marvel at it (assuming it hasn’t melted)? How ridiculous, when our fossil fuel companies need to drill for oil…
Now, the Endangered Species Act is in the plutocrats’ crosshairs.As Elizabeth Kolbert writes in The New Yorker,
In the summer of 1973, the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries approved a version of the Endangered Species Act and sent the bill to the floor of Congress. To accompany the measure, the committee—now defunct—produced a report that offered the following analogy. Imagine that a copy of every book in the world had been deposited in one enormous building. Now imagine that a madman was somehow able to enter the building, light a bonfire, and incinerate part of the collection. The response would be outrage. At the very least, the administrators of the building would be censured; probably they would be replaced.
“So it is with mankind,” the report observed. Like it or not, humans had become the administrators of the planet: “we are our brother’s keepers, and we are also keepers of the rest of the house.”
“We are our brothers’ keepers” is obviously a sentiment that is utterly incomprehensible to Trump and the collection of incompetents and thugs who staff his administration.
Protecting the environment wasn’t always a partisan issue. Richard Nixon established the EPA, and during the signing ceremony for the Endangered Species Act, he said, “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed.”
How times have changed!
Forty-five years later, there is a madman in the building. In fact, there are several. Last week, the Trump Administration proposed what the Timescalled “the most sweeping set of changes in decades” to the regulations used to enforce the Act. The changes would weaken protections for endangered species, while making it easier for companies to build roads, pipelines, or mines in crucial habitats. Under current regulations, government agencies are supposed to make decisions about what species need safeguarding “without reference to possible economic or other impacts.” The Administration wants to scratch that phrase. It also wants to scale back protections for threatened species—these are one notch down on the endangerment scale—and to make it easier to delist species that have been classified as endangered.
Representative Raúl Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who is the ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee called the proposed changes “part of the endless special favors the White House and Department of the Interior are willing to do for their industry friends.”
Also in the past few weeks, congressional Republicans have introduced some two dozen measures and, perhaps more importantly, spending-bill riders aimed at weakening the Act. The version of the Pentagon budget that the House approved last month, for instance, included a provision that would have prohibited the Interior Department from granting protection to the sage grouse, a fantastic bird whose numbers have declined by an estimated ninety per cent since the nineteenth century. (The provision, which the Pentagon objected to, was stripped out a couple of days ago.
As Kolbert concedes, there are good reasons to modify portions of the Act, but no good–or even plausible– reason to weaken it.
The value of earth’s biodiversity “is, quite literally, incalculable,” the House report stated, back in 1973. “Sheer self-interest impels us to be cautious.”
Evidently, none of the thugs, vandals and crony capitalists who currently occupy positions of authority in this disastrous administration have grandchildren who will have to live in the world that will remain after their spree of despoiling and looting.