by Ben Cohen
One of the most difficult things about being in the news industry in the Trump era is the relentlessly bad news -- it comes faster and faster and faster with almost no end in sight. This means there are so many stories to cover, so many scandals with so many angles that it is near impossible to accurately portray what is happening to the American government right now.
Having monitored this incredibly closely for the past two months, the best description I can come up with is that we are in the middle of watching a coup -- a chaotic, hostile takeover of government by radical anti-statists bent on destroying American democracy in as short a time as possible. And in case you think this is hyperbole, I'd refer you to the words of Steve Bannon, the architect of Trumpism:
Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.
As the Trump administration goes about incinerating federal funding for the arts, Housing and Urban Development, legal aid for the poor, FEMA, the TSA, and every other agency they can think of, Americans can look forward to a radically less stable, less safe country that does not have enough money to function as a first world, industrialized democracy. We've seen this play out before when the Bush administration did their best to destroy government and sell it off to the highest bidder. The result? Disasters like this.
Perhaps the most alarming facet of the Trump administration is its brazen disregard for science, and their stated desire to pump more CO2 into the atmosphere -- thus wrecking our natural environment. This could not be happening at a worse time in human history given we are heating the planet up at a rate so alarming that the damage may well be irreversible. There should be no reason to repeat the science on man-made climate change. The evidence is irrefutable and only hardened ideologues or paid corporate shills state otherwise, but in 2017 the most powerful government in the world is still waging a war on our natural environment. It is, for lack of a better word, insane.
The intellectual basis for the dismissal of climate change is, even more alarmingly, a product of a deep, religious based mistrust of science. This is no longer just a crazy opinion of fringe politicians, but now the staple of government policy. The anti-scientific stance taken by the Trump administration has now sinisterly been incorporated (or unincorporated) into the Environmental Protection Agencies core mission statement. From IFLScience:
The EPA’s Office of Science and Technology (OST) once had a mission statement that began thusly: “OST is responsible for developing sound, science-based standards, criteria, health advisories, test methods and guidelines…” It talks about using “scientific and technological foundations” to achieve things like clean water and pristine aquatic environments.
Now, the mission statement notes that it works on “economically and technologically achievable performance standards to address water pollution.” The word “science” has been completely removed from the site – despite the fact that, lest we forget, this if the Office of Science and Technology.
Just think about that for a minute. The Office of Science and Technology is no longer about science. This Orwellian development is no doubt a derivative of the Bush administration's war on language and reality, but it is all the more frightening given the urgency of our environmental crisis. Donald Trump and his team of anti-intellectual zealots are playing Russian (no pun intended) Roulette with humanity's future at a unique moment in our history -- the only window of time we have to stop cooking the planet before it is too late.
"Right now, the Earth's temperature is already well into the range that existed during the Eemian period, 120,000 years ago, which was the last time the Earth was warmer than it is now," NASA scientist James Hansen told Rolling Stone.
"And that was a time when sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher than it is now. So that's what we could expect if we just leave things the way they are. And we've got more warming in the pipeline, so we're going to the top of and even outside of the Eemian range if we don't do something," he continued.
"And that something is that we have to move to clean energy as quickly as possible. If we burn all the fossil fuels, then we will melt all the ice on the planet eventually, and that would raise the seas by about 250 feet. So we can't do that. But if we just stay on this path, then it's the CO2 that we're putting up there that is a burden for young people because they're going to have to figure out how to get it out of the atmosphere. Or figure out how to live on a radically different planet."
If the people in power a) don't intellectually understand (or want to understand) the crisis and b) are not willing to do anything about it, the crisis is even more severe than the science tells us it is. With a functioning government run by people with good critical thinking skills and a reasonable set of moral standards, the environmental crisis is potentially solvable. It would still be incredibly difficult to pull off and would require a huge expenditure of money and political will, but just as America has been able to summon its vast army to fight massively complex wars for prolonged periods of time, it is more than capable of accelerating an energy revolution and radically reducing its environmental impact.
But when the head of the Environmental Protection Agency has publicly questioned the science on global warming and is seemingly incapable of coming to terms with the ramifications of man made climate change, we are in very, very serious trouble.