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.

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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The Aziz Ansari Situation Is Called Sexual Coercion, And It's Way Too Common

It doesn’t have to be rape to ruin your life, and it doesn’t have to ruin your life to be worth speaking out about.

Since the publication of Babe.net’s account of an anonymous woman’s bad date with Aziz Ansari, media, and social sites have been throwing out opinions on what this means for the Me Too movement, and for Ansari’s career.

Many of these opinions range from accusing the woman – referred to as “Grace” in the account – of taking away from actual rape survivors to outright calling her out for being bitter about not being treated like a future girlfriend by Ansari. While this story is very different from the New York Times story on Harvey Weinstein and its discussion on workplace assaults and rape, the story by Babe brings up a more common issue that many women and men who have been in a sexual encounter with another man can relate to.

In the account, the writer talks about how “Grace” felt increasingly uncomfortable as the night went on at Ansari’s apartment. He made sexual advances that were aggressively pushed upon her without her active consent. The article goes into detail about how every advance he made seemed to be rushed and gave her no time or opportunity to feel comfortable and safe enough to decline. She states that she had tried multiple times to non-verbally express her discomfort, but Ansari either didn’t notice or chose to ignore those signs.

“Most of my discomfort was expressed in me pulling away and mumbling. I know that my hand stopped moving at some points, I stopped moving my lips and turned cold.”

Now, this is where things get tricky and many people have put her situation up for debate on whether or not it was an assault. While it may not follow the so-called guidelines that society has set up that define a rape or assault, the way she describes her situation certainly is not consensual in any way.

Sexual coercion is a form of sexual assault and it is harder to identify and prevent it from happening. The reason for that is because we as a society are exposed to sexual coercion almost everywhere, especially in the media and in films.

As shown in many romantic films, the man portrays the go-getter character who’s one goal is to win the girl’s affections, even after being told to back off many times. This kind of harassment is romanticized in a way that shows men that even if a woman says no, they can still eventually get what they want if they try long and hard enough.

The movie "Grease" is a classic and more outright example of enforcing rape culture in this way when one of Danny’s buddies ask, “Did she put up a fight?” in the number “Summer Nights”. The notion that it is more sexually appealing to pursue a woman who might not be interested in having sex, instills patriarchal ideologies into our culture and has men feeling like they are entitled to sex.

When we talk about how something so common and seemingly ordinary is actually problematic, people can’t understand why things need to change. With the Ansari situation, critics of Grace’s story ask why she didn’t just say no and walk out of the situation, or that its normal for girls to feel this way during a hookup, and she should’ve had thicker skin and moved on instead of going to the media. Critics like HLN Anchor, Ashleigh Banfield, brought up victim blaming points like these in an open letter, while also saying that her workplace harassment actually deserves the media attention.

This isn’t some competition on who has been more assaulted than the other. This is a discussion about how we should have a higher standard when it comes to sex, and that standard should be consensual and communicative. There are extreme power dynamics at play that allow men to use that privilege and power over women (and other men) as a way to have sex, even if it’s not explicitly consensual. As a very powerful, influential and supposedly feminist man, Ansari should have understood the responsibly he had and simply asked Grace if she was ok. The absence of a no does not equate an active yes.

As a response to many of Grace’s critics, TBS comedy show host Samantha Bee stated on her show that Ansari’s actions may not be defined explicitly as rape, but that still does not make it acceptable.

“It doesn’t have to be rape to ruin your life, and it doesn’t have to ruin your life to be worth speaking out about. Any kind of sexual harassment or coercion is unacceptable!”

It really shouldn’t be too much to ask to be treated like a person and have your emotions be validated during something as intimate as sex. If men can't be mature and communicative enough to handle that, maybe they should take some of Samantha Bee’s wise advice and go fuck something else: “May I suggest a coin purse? Or a Ziploc bag full of grape jelly?”

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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Donald Trump Is Not A Populist

Trump's style of politics is not even close to populism.

On 8 Jan, President Donald Trump announced that he would be attending this week’s World Economic Forum. The three-day meeting takes place in Switzerland, the banking capital of the world. The W.E.F. “strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest,” according to its mission page. Over its 48 years of existence, the forum has become synonymous with the global financial elite.

Attending the meeting in Davos should bite at the fabric of Trumpism. Many have said that Trump ran as a populist, assailing everyone from immigrants to the executives of Goldman Sachs. He won the 2016 election primarily by beating the polls in Rust Belt states like Michigan and Pennsylvania that normally vote for Democrats but that sided with Trump’s harder line on free trade that Hillary Clinton’s.

So why would Trump want to be seen with the likes of the CEO of the largest hedge fund in the world and the former president of the European Parliament? He would be the first president to R.S.V.P. to the W.E.F. since Bill Clinton; Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama were concerned that attending would hurt their images. Last year’s speakers railed against protectionism; Chinese President Xi Jinping said that “no one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.” The globalists in Davos might moderate their talk with Trump, the epitome of protectionism, in the room, but they might also take the opportunity to speak to him directly.

The root of the confusion at Trump's plan to attend is the assumption that Trump is a populist. The phrase “populism” is broad and hard to define. Google defines “populism” as “support for the concerns of ordinary people.” Populists tend to be called extremists, whether they are as far right as French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen or leftists like Senator Bernie Sanders. Generally, populists favor a stronger government and distrust all other institutions, including foreign governments. While anti-immigrant sentiment is common among populists, it is more central to populism to rail against the economic elites and globalization. Most of all, populists are stubborn to a fault; they hold true to their positions to the bitter end.

Trump famously began his campaign complaining that Mexican immigrants were overwhelming the country with crime. He also denounced the North American Free Trade Agreement (N.A.F.T.A.) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.) and accused Clinton of being too tied to Wall Street banks. But these are words, not actions.

In a meeting last Tuesday with members of Congress from both parties, Trump said that “we’re gonna do D.A.C.A.,” referring to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order that Obama signed but Trump rescinded, “and then we’re gonna move on to phase two, which is comprehensive immigration reform.” This seems to cut against Trump’s anti-immigrant sentiment; he more or less assured Democrats that he would sign a bill that translated D.A.C.A. into a law instead of an executive order. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stepped in and informed Trump that the Senate had tried to pass a D.A.C.A.-esque bill before, which then-Sen. Clinton had voted for.

Two days later, Trump had invited Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), both favorable to a humane approach to immigration reform, to further discuss immigration. When the Senators arrived at the White House, they learned that they would be joined by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and White House adviser Steven Miller, two immigration hard-liners. At the meeting, Durbin suggested a way to scale back the diversity visa lottery that Trump has assailed. In return, Durbin suggested favoring third-world nations in Africa and Latin America. Trump, in response, wondered why the United States was so focused on bringing in people from "shithole countries," according to both Graham and Durbin. He said the U.S. should accept more Norwegians and the like.

Many have reflected on whether those comments reflect racist sentiment on Trump's part, but consider this: Cotton, the far-right Senator, was at the Tuesday meeting, but was outnumbered by lawmakers closer to the center on immigration (Miller was not at that meeting). The second meeting saw Graham and Durbin become the smallest voices in the room. It is possible that Trump was simply appealing to his audience, acting tough on immigration, especially from developing countries, simply because he wanted right-wing legislators and advisers to think he was on their side. (On Sunday we saw the benefit of making borderline racist comments only with borderline racists: Cotton and Sen. David Purdue (R-Ga.) denied that Trump had suggested that the U.S. should limit immigration from the developing world.)

On his first full day in office, Trump withdrew the United States from T.P.P., a trade deal crafted by Obama binding together twelve nations representing 40% of the world economy. But that didn’t kill the deal; in fact, the other countries might have an easier time negotiating without concerns that Republicans in the American Congress will obstruct it, always a fear in international relations. The Trump administration is also renegotiating N.A.F.T.A. instead of throwing it out like he promised.

In regards to Wall Street, the President has not exactly kept bankers at arm’s length. Five members of his cabinet are alumni of Goldman Sachs. On Wednesday the administration began scaling back regulations authorized by the Community Reinvestment Act, which mandated that banks had to do more to alleviate poverty. And then there's the W.E.F., expected to be attended by leaders of some of the world's biggest banks.

When Trump announced his run for President, the media had become accustomed to labeling candidates: Obama was a reformer, Clinton was establishment, Sanders, by his own admission, was a democratic socialist. Trump was labeled as a populist for lack of a better term because he talked the talk. Now that he has been in office for a year and accomplished remarkably little of the right-wing agenda he espoused during the campaign, many are starting to realize that Trump may not be the populist they thought he was.

In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any -ism that accurately describes Trump’s ideological engagements because he says different things to different people. In public, he tells his supporters he wants to round up all the immigrants and throw them out of the country; to legislators, he says he wants D.A.C.A. to be enacted as a law. He assures the working class he is on their side; he assures the world economic elite he wants to attend their rich people party.

So what do we call this new style of politics? Perhaps we should call it approval-ism, after Trump’s desire for approval from whomever he is speaking to.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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