Trump’s assault on human kindness, cooperation and the environment

Trump and envionmental degradation

By Graham Peebles

An undercurrent of fury is bubbling beneath the prevailing gloom that is the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

Trump’s presidency may prove to be the final straw in the decades-long assault on social and economic justice, cooperation and solidarity which began during the reign of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

It could usher in an unstoppable popular uprising that unites people in common cause against the abhorrent ideals that are causing despair and anger among millions worldwide, a global campaign based on, and calling for unity, tolerance, cooperation and social responsibility.

People power

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 popular protests of unprecedented scale and scope have swept across the world. Countries in every region of the world have experienced demonstrations of one kind or another. Common themes connect these peaceful campaigns: social injustice, economic inequality, political bias and environmental concerns.

Huge protests have been directed not only at governments and their policies, but also at large corporations such as oil companies and arms manufacturers.

The guiding principles for peaceful popular protests were laid out in the non-violent approach championed by Mahatma Gandhi: civil disobedience, creative public protest and non-cooperation – not against people but against their actions; not against officials but against the system they administer.

The roots of non-cooperation lie in the yearning for justice and the desire to combat the hatred and bigotry of the likes of Trump. As the reactionary, materialistic forces of the world attempt to assert themselves with increasing fury, and the political left drowns in a state of vacillation and disarray, groups of people are uniting to challenge the ascendancy of nationalism, bigotry and isolation – divisive ideals embodied by Trump whose election has emboldened far right groups all over the world.

Reckless actions

Trump came to power on a wave of deep anger, a sense of betrayal and suffering born of poverty and exclusion. As the US journalist Chris Hedges says, Trump told the people what they wanted to hear but is now “ramping up neo-liberalism… it’s going to be a naked kleptocracy, which is not what people voted for”.

There was a naïve hope that the responsibility of office would silence much of Trump’s toxic campaign rhetoric, but after just over two weeks in the White House it is clear that he has every intention of honouring his poisonous campaign pledges.

Among the many Trump policies of concern, his vile immigration policies and his approach to all things environmental are particularly alarming. Through a raft of executive orders, which are intended for use in times of emergency, he has banned nationals from seven, mainly Muslim countries from entering the US, including refugees fleeing war-torn Syria. Not only is this measure appalling, and probably illegal under international law, but it is the kind of action that is likely to increase, not decrease, the risk of terrorist attacks in the US and elsewhere in the West.

Trump’s economic and energy plans, coupled with his ignorance of the facts concerning the environment, threaten to have a calamitous impact on climate change and the natural world more broadly. He has surrounded himself with “sceptics” and climate change deniers, threatened to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and after four days as president took actions that will greatly increase greenhouse gases and therefore intensify climate change.

Trump resurrected the Keystone XL pipeline which, according to Friends of the Earth (FoE), could “devastate ecosystems, pollute water sources and jeopardize public health”. If completed, the pipeline will transport tar sands oil – one of the world’s dirtiest fuels – 2,000 miles from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of Texas and into the US oil pipeline network. During the production of tar sands oil “levels of carbon dioxide emissions are three to four times higher than those of conventional oil”, FoE says.

The pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil into the US every day, resulting “in climate-damaging emissions equal to adding more than 5.6 million new cars to US roads”.

In addition to this atrocious, irresponsible decision, Trump also “expedited another pipeline in the Dakotas that had become a major flashpoint for Native Americans”, the New York Times reported, and signed a directive ordering an end to protracted environmental reviews. Objections to the Dakota Access Pipelines, which would carry “450,000 barrels of fracked oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois”, were outlines in a letter signed by 37 environmental groups (including Greenpeace and FoE), sent to Barack Obama, when he was president.

Despite these environmentally destructive actions, Trump recently told automobile company executives – without a hint of irony – “I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist, I believe in it.”

Inter-related environmental crises are the greatest threat to humanity, the planet and the sub-human kingdoms, and now 62 million Americans have elected a president who fails to recognise the risks. His triumph, together with the wider successes of the Republicans, place total control of the government – the Executive, Congress and the Supreme Court – in the hands of the Republican Party which, because of its stance on environmental issues, Noam Chomsky says, “has become the most dangerous organisation in world history”.

The responsibility is ours

The answers to the numerous inter-related issues facing humanity – many of which find fertile ground in the new US presidency – are not to be found in the ways of competition and the darkness of suspicion and separation, but lie in the fertile grounds of cooperation, sharing and unity.

Solutions are, and will increasingly come from, the people, not from the current crop of politicians who are inadequate to the task, lack the imagination needed, are ideologically blinded and habitually turn to the past to meet the challenges of the present, which inevitably exacerbate the problems.

Humanity is at a crossroads, with fundamental choices to make: the likes of Trump – and he is far from alone in his perverse views – embody one way, and the millions who have marched, petitioned, demonstrated and cried out represent another, more positive and humane path. They are the vast majority and express the aspirations of people around the world for a new, fairer, saner way of living: a world in which our lives cease to be determined by market forces and a derelict, unjust economic model.

If Trump and his acolytes are to be cast aside, as they must be, we must act. The protests against his policies must be maintained and expanded, the outrage felt by people throughout the world harnessed and an unstoppable momentum for real change built.

If our collective will is to live in a world at peace, in which sharing, tolerance and cooperation prevail, we must express these ideals in our own lives and relentlessly stand up to those who work in opposition to them.

The election of Trump as president – brought about in large measure by voters’ legitimate anger at the economic injustices millions of Americans have been subjected to – is a clarion call to action: coordinated, peaceful protest, creatively presented and consistently undertaken.

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