April 22 marked the passing of another Earth Day, with a weekend-long festival at Fair Park, and celebrations around the world. Our awareness about the importance of protecting the environment seems to be increasing. Yet the actions by state and national politicians seem to be going in the opposite direction.
This should be a no-brainer. Our climate is changing; the past three years were the hottest on record. The connection between environmental damage and global warming has been proven by decades of research by scientists. Yet the legislation we're seeing from Austin and Washington, D.C. has us backtracking on regulations to protect the environment.
We need to step up, both in our personal habits and in our rejection of legislation that's bad for the planet.
One amendment recently approved by the Texas House of Representatives provokes serious cause for alarm. The amendment was tacked on to the proposed budget, and would divert funds previously dedicated to environmental initiatives and send them to a controversial anti-abortion program instead. Specifically, the House voted on April 6 to take $20 million of the funding set aside in the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan and send it to Alternatives to Abortion (A2A) crisis pregnancy centers, which counsel women against having abortions.
Representative Matt Krause, a Republican from Fort Worth, had a hand in this. The budget still requires approval from the Senate.
It's not just the Texas Legislature. We have a President who vowed on the campaign trail to take down the Environmental Protection Agency, and who called global warming a "hoax" and "bullshit." The day Donald Trump was sworn in, the page on the White House website about climate change vanished. Four days later, he signed an executive order restoring the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
Trump has also stated his intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon pollution and combat global warming that was signed by almost 200 countries in 2015.
Trump's actions are of concern to environmentalists, scientists, and public health advocates alike. They're also of concern to people in cities across the U.S. and around the world who participated in a March For Science on April 22. And it needs to be of concern to each and every one one of us, who should be aghast at continued attacks by the elected officials against efforts meant to protect the environment.
Environmental advocates were at Earth Day TX on April 21 to protest the presence of Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, who was invited to speak at a symposium on environmental law and policy. Pruitt is the former Attorney General for Oklahoma who sued the agency he now heads 14 times. Shunning scientific consensus, he recently claimed that activities like burning fossil fuels aren't the primary contributor to climate change.
He seemed like an odd choice for the environmentally themed event (he was also late), and protestors were there to point out the irony. One called him a monster, asking how much he's being paid, suggesting that he's getting financial compensation from companies that benefit from relaxed environmental regulations.
If protesting isn't your thing, there are things we can all do on a personal level. One friend attending a conference found out the venue was taking the full recycling bins and dumping them into the trash. She took to Twitter, announcing the scandal to the several hundred attendees.
I've broken my habit of cleaning out my car when I stop for gas. It's easier to throw out empty bottles and papers while the tank fills, but few gas stations recycle. I wait until I'm home and I can throw it all directly into my recycling bin. It's nicely satisfying.
On Friday I went to a store to return items I'd purchased online. The store offered to take the blue plastic packaging from me, and I began to hand it over, but something made me ask if they recycled. They said they do not. So I filled my purse with the empty packaging and took care of it myself.
We've all got to get a bit more brave. The sad reality is, we aren't the ones who will suffer from the neglect of ourselves and our elected officials. It's future generations and all living things that eventually will be hurt. The impact will be a dead planet left dark without life. And if that doesn't make you want to put on your cowboy boots and take action, I'm not sure anything will.