My View: We need to make real climate progress
On April 22, 1970, a group of Republicans and Democrats from all walks of life gathered to celebrate our planet and pledge to protect it. Earth Day was born.
This momentous event signaled a new focus on the environment and action leading to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and a massive update of the Clean Air Act.
Today, 48 years later, we face some of the most pressing environmental issues in human history. While rivers may not be on fire, climate disruption and environmental degradation threaten our way of life in the Pacific Northwest and across the world. We are witnessing catastrophic events, the decimation of endangered species, a planet ravaged by drought and even entire communities poisoned by their drinking water.
In response, our government — controlled by Donald Trump and congressional Republicans — has made the problem even worse, causing damage that could take decades to undo.
Through both words and actions, Trump has made it clear that environmental protections aren't just unimportant, they should be eliminated in favor of special interests. He's demanded devastating budget cuts to agencies that protect our health, increased pollution in our air with dirtier and less-efficient cars, and threatened to auction off public lands — even our coasts — to the highest bidders. Catering to polluting industries, his administration has rolled back environmental regulations that protect clean water, clean air, and our climate.
Trump has appointed foxes to govern our environmental henhouses: a longtime adversary of the Environmental Protection Agency at its very helm, a friend of the extractive industry to the Department of Interior, and a clueless climate-change-denier at the Department of Energy. Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke and Rick Perry are giving us new definitions for the words cronyism and corruption.
Republicans in Congress have taken their own disgraceful actions. In 2017 alone, Congress voted on bills to give special favors to the oil and gas industry, while gutting protections for the environment. As part of their tax monstrosity, they snuck in a provision to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most spectacular and important remaining protected areas in our country.
But there is hope. Despite the efforts of the Trump Administration, the renewable energy industry continues to grow at a record pace. Clearly, markets know what's right. And the public is demanding cleaner, carbon-free sources of energy.
What's more, the public has shown that it resoundingly rejects attacks on the environment. After Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, over 2,600 tribes, states, cities, counties, businesses, and organizations of all shapes and sizes said they were "still in," pledging to take strong climate action to uphold the accord. When Interior Secretary Zinke announced he was shrinking national monuments, millions of Americans voiced outrage.
People are fighting back for the environment and taking charge of their future.
In light of the Trump Administration's complete abdication of leadership on environmental issues, Oregonians have led, individually and through the state and local governments.
This Earth Day, Congress should recommit to doing more. We need to make real climate progress, strengthen environmental and natural resource protections, and resist assaults that undermine environmental health and the wellbeing of our citizens.
The fate of our planet and the lives of our children and grandchildren depend on it.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer represents Oregon's Congressional District 3. He can be reached at: blumenauer.house.gov/contact/email