Dear Mr. President, Stop Prioritizing Oil Giants Over The Environment

Dear Mr. President, Stop Prioritizing Oil Giants Over The Environment

Time-honored, protected wonders of nature will soon be subject to private interests and environmentally-harmful practices.
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On December 4, 2017, President Trump announced his plans to reduce the size of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 50 percent. Carried out, it could be the largest reduction of public land in United States history.

This move will effectively reverse Presidents Obama and Clinton’s invoking of the Antiquities Act, which has created monuments later deemed as national parks like the Grand Canyon, Acadia and Olympic, in 2016 and 1996 respectively, officially declaring the two areas national monuments under federal law.

These declarations protect the land from mineral and oil exploitation, commercial development and the misappropriation of Native American reservations and artifacts. While previous presidents have made smaller changes to national monument boundaries in the past, only one has tried to reduce the size of monuments this drastically, Woodrow Wilson in 1915.

Trump’s plans aren’t new, either. Conversations surrounding the Antiquities Act and its protected lands began in April with Trump’s order to the Department of the Interior to review national monuments over 100,000 acres created since 1996.

And since April, Native and environmental organizations have been fighting the idea of shrinking national monuments.

The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition has filed a lawsuit. Outdoor clothing company Patagonia has teamed up with Friends of Cedar Mesa, Utah Dine Bikeyah and Archeology Southwest to file suit.

The entirety of the Navajo Nation has intent to sue the Trump administration.

According to the Bureau of Land Management itself, Bears Ears is a "significant cultural landscape...with thousands of archaeological sites and important areas of spiritual significance."

"These lands are sacred to many Native American tribes today, who use the lands for ceremonies, collecting medicinal and edible plants, and gathering materials for crafting baskets and footwear. Their recommendations will ensure management decisions reflect tribal expertise and traditional and historical knowledge."

Does it sound like they're actually considering "tribal expertise" now?

The Bureau also notes that Grand Staircase's "world-class dinosaur excavations have yielded more information about ecosystem change at the end of the dinosaur era than almost any other place in the world."

"Among the fossil finds, paleontologists have identified dinosaurs not previously known to have inhabited this region, as well as several new species."

Apparently, big oil's money is a more important asset than paleontological finds that teach us about the history of our planet and may aid us in creating a sustainable environment for generations to come.

Legal scholars have also asserted their position, claiming the authority to drastically reduce the size of national monuments does not lie with the president, but Congress instead. Neither the Antiquities Act nor the Federal Land Policy and Management Act allow for executive action by the president in dealings with public land.

Retired lawyer and current chair of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of the National Parks Conservation Association wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post that while proponents of Trump’s order argue that the Constitution’s allocation of executive power to the president, “we are not here dealing with any power granted the president under the Constitution, but instead with the management of federal lands.”

“The Constitution’s property clause grants that power not to the president, but exclusively to Congress.”

“In the Antiquities Act, Congress chose to delegate a portion of this power to the president to designate national monuments. Therefore, the issue is not whether the Constitution’s grant of executive power conveys the power to revoke national monuments, but whether Congress has given that power to the president.”

So, not only is Trump stealing land from Native Americans and the general American public while advocating for oil and gas fracking — one of the most harmful fossil fuel practices — and the removal of fossil evidence from protected lands, he literally is not allowed to do this under law.

Bears Ears and Grand Staircase aren't special cases. If Trump were planning to do this to the Grand Canyon instead, everyone would be outraged.

Imagine losing the beauty of 1900 square miles of rich, red rock, historic hiking trails and rolling rivers to appease the desires of fossil fuel giants. Imagine losing half of the Giant Sequoia in California, or the Vermilion Cliffs in Arizona.

These time-honored wonders of nature could be subject to private interests and environmentally-harmful practices at the very sound of Trump's orders.

And that’s exactly what’s happening in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase. These are living museums and they're going to be destroyed.

No, this is not a win for the American people. No, returning control of these lands to the states, who will most likely sell out for private interests, will not give rural America a voice.

No, the ownership of public land by the federal government is not a bureaucratic abuse of democracy and power – it’s conserving and protecting precious land that belongs to the Natives that call it sacred, the wildlife that thrives in it and the people that enjoy its beauty.

This cannot be a partisan issue anymore. It never should have been.

Mr. President, stop prioritizing private money, fossil fuel giants and corporate interests over the environment.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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You Might Love Being A CNA, But That Compassion Won't Show Up In Your Paycheck

A big heart means nothing if you're struggling to make ends meet.

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To the ones who love their job and doing what they do but is on the fence about leaving their job, I was in your shoes, too.

I knew when I started my job as a CNA (certified nurse's assistant), it would be a hard one. If you know anything about the job duties of a CNA, you'll quickly understand that for all of the work that we do, we're ridiculously underpaid and overworked.

I'll start by saying I loved my job.

Though the days were long and I was on my feet more than I sat down during the day, I loved being able to help people. I loved being able to make people smile and hear a simple "Thank you" and sometimes, that's all I needed for my day to do a full 360. I could be having the worst day in the world and covered in random bodily fluids, but walking out of a resident's room and hearing them quietly tell you that they appreciate what you've done for them, that's truly the one thing that can change my entire day, knowing that my hard work doesn't go unnoticed.

But compassion doesn't pay mine or anyone else's bills.

Someone could love their job and be happy to be there every single shift, but when you're overworked but so underpaid, your compassion may not leave, but your bills begin to pile up and you're stuck with not knowing what to do. If you're anything like me, you'll be so conflicted about leaving your job to find something better financially, but you know that you're leaving a job you enjoy doing and you may not find that enjoyment elsewhere.

At the end of the day, you have to realize what would be best for you. You can be the most compassionate about your job, but that compassion means nothing if you're struggling to make ends meet. I know from experience that if you're in a field like mine, it's hard to leave because you know people will need you, but you have to do what's best for you and only you.

Compassion doesn't pay the bills.

You may have to leave a job that you love, but there are so many opportunities out there and, who knows, you might find one you enjoy just as equally.

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