When all is Polluted

“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”

I awake each morning to a veritable cannonade of news updates. I find we aren’t approaching an Orwellian nightmare, but rather a tawdry simulacrum of such a nightmare, headed by a modern-day Caligula; I reckon this latter reality is far worse than Orwell’s fictional world. The scariest part, I think, is that I cannot discern whether the commander-in-chief is morally corrupt or that he’s truly enjoying the systematic destruction of a great country—or both.

Thus, I wasn’t surprised to learn President Trump had selected a known climate change denier, Scott Pruitt, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Neither am I surprised by the Pruitt’s blatant casuistry in the National Review, where he hopes to continue urging a “healthy debate” about global warming—in his favor, of course; even the title of the article, “The Climate Change Gang,” should signal bullshit is afoot. No, I’m more aghast that media coverage surrounding this unbelievably egregious appointment was so scant.

Where were the placards? Where were the protests?

Alas, nowhere.

Let’s get into a very brief lesson. Around the middle of the twentieth century, it dawned on society that our mortal ventures and pursuits could augment the planet with noteworthy consequences for its inhabitants, namely us. Prior to this exigent concern, industrial eructations coated our skies and toxic waste was callously dumped away from populated areas. Established in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency has generally acted as the proactive bulwark against environmental pollutants that would otherwise lead to our untimely demise as a species. They are principally responsible for enforcing laws like the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and various forms of hazardous waste disposal, among other things. Check out their mission. It’s kind of important.

I have written about the Love Canal and the Valley of the Drums and how just one important piece of EPA legislation—the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, more affectionately known as the Superfund Act—superintended the cleanup of two toxic dumping grounds and held the perpetrating goons accountable.

Yet, the EPA isn’t an infallible or perfect institution.

Despite all its faults, alleged negligence, and various lawsuits threatening its existence, we need the EPA. Hell, I think the EPA could be doing a better job; I think much of its initiatives and actions are reactive, acting belatedly to environmental health disasters. Just look at the spillage of waste at the Gold King Mine in Colorado or the lead-rich waters of Flint, Michigan or the new water finance program. My criticisms and misgivings notwithstanding, we require an agency which advocates for the preservation of the natural world, for it has become distressingly clear the Trump administration endeavors to achieve the contrary.

When Books Burn

Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.

With the emergence of the reprehensible term “alternative facts”—we can thank Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, for this affront to truth—I couldn’t help but recall my reading of Nineteen Eighty-Four. It would seem I was not alone. I implore those who haven’t read the book to pick up a copy and compare the fictional work to our current reality under the Trump administration.

What a time to be alive.

With each passing day, we find ourselves in a world that more closely approximates the society in which Winston Smith lived, where Newspeak and doublethink are distressingly palpable. For example, the vetting of EPA information. The Trump administration ordered all information released to the public by the Environmental Protection Agency be reviewed. By whom, you ask? By bias politicians with little to no background or understanding of science, of course. It’s possible that the administration instituted this totalitarian edict only for the duration of their transition into power. Or perhaps this is an attempt by Big Brother and his cult to quash information against their interests, rewriting facts and history to fit their agendas.

I tend to think the latter is more likely. Get a load of this:

The only references to rising temperatures on the new Trump White House site are a commitment to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan”.

On top of the review process imposed on the EPA, the Trump administration would peruse all EPA webpages—especially those with information and data related to climate change—to remove anything unsightly. Can’t wait for Trump to hold a press conference where he declares, “no one does science better than me.”

I’m a member of the American Public Health Association and I subscribe to all their newsletters and emails. I awoke this morning to an explosion of cellphone notifications as my Gmail inbox was overcome by a deluge of exigent business. The emails contained various factsheets, links, and documents regarding climate change and its health implications, intended to create an offsite repository of crucial information lest it be extirpated by the current administration.

Did I wake up in the Oceania? What the fuck is happening?

Well, it’s not bibliocide in the classical sense, but a conflagration has started. The Trump administration is making big moves, some proving to be inimical to health and science—this much should be painfully obvious. With broad swipes, funding for important reproductive health services has been cut and the canker of fossil fuels can now spread unabated. And now, they want to get rid of climate change science altogether.

Although the Trump administration has abruptly halted its “book-burning” enterprise, we can only wonder for how long. As the Terminator warned us: “Judgment day is inevitable.” This is only the beginning. We would do well to remember that “it is there, where they burn books, that eventually they burn people.”

The Bituminous Future

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

We all remember departing 2016 remarking it as having been the worst year in existence, mewling and grieving and bitching and moaning. Somehow, I suppose we all knew—with the election of Donald Trump—such a sentiment could not have been true. Indeed, we may have jinxed ourselves, for each passing day we bitterly regret our premature Facebook lamentations.

I stand by my previous remarks about the loathsome pseudo-intellectual and incumbent Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson. Especially after reading such masochistic comments like the following:

“I would not have chosen him because of his lack of experience and his often troubling public statements over the last three years,” Brown said. “But despite my reservations and my disagreements with some of his positions, I’ll give Dr. Carson the benefit of the doubt.”

Why?

Drivel of this sort is the seedbed for the kind of ignorance and complacency that would see civil liberties erode, education crumble, and democracy falter. Perhaps I was too kind to the doctor; so, too, were the Republicans who posed rather weak questions during Carson’s confirmation hearing. In true political cowardice, Carson failed to answer a number of questions directly and wholly demonstrated that his experience as a neurosurgeon will translate poorly to his new position.

Speaking of crumbling education, Betsy DeVos—Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education—is another unsavory mortal whose intelligence is inversely proportional to her wealth. Need proof? Please watch this lengthy and sordid Senate confirmation hearing to learn that schools in Wyoming need firearms “to protect from potential grizzlies.”

It is difficult not to succumb to further pessimism as President Trump signs executive actions committing the United States to the unabating despoliation of the environment and sacred sites. What is to be expected from a man who believes global warming is a Chinese fabrication. And Trump’s potential picks for science advisor don’t bode well for the environment either, let alone humanity. The first is a physicist from Princeton who believes more carbon dioxide emissions “will be good for the world.” The second is a computer scientist from Yale who thinks Trump is “not just sharp; he’s thoughtful.” I wonder whether the president will select the jester or sycophant.

Alas, I’m sure Trump’s signatures have TransCanada and Energy Transfer Partners celebrating while environmentalists are incensed. Everyone should be incensed. Gloom approaches again, threatening to cloak our sun in ashen clouds and blanket our waters in inky expiry. This is unacceptable.