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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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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2019 Just Means That The 2020 Election Is Coming

I don't want things to be that way, people running for President make it that way.

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The 2020 election has begun with Senator Elizabeth Warren announcing that she has formed an exploratory committee to run for president.

Other likely candidates include Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Beto O'Rourke, Michael Bloomberg, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. And those are only the people eating at the adult's table, there are other Democrats that will probably throw their hats in the ring just for some publicity.

The last time a primary began to decide the opponent for an unpopular incumbent Republican president that had lost the popular vote in his first campaign was just 15 years ago, in 2004 when John Kerry became the nominee to challenge President George W. Bush.

Kerry may have lost the election, but he did have an easy primary. Kerry beat out his early challengers and went on to easily win almost all of the primary caucuses and elections.

I do not think that 2020 will be so easy and that is due in part to 2016. The 2016 primary may have eclipsed 2008 in terms of being one of the most consequential primaries in US history.

2016 showed the ideological split within the Democratic Party, with many New Democrats, socially liberal economically conservative centrists, holding most of the power within, while there's a strong grassroots force urging the party leftwards. Critics will claim Hillary Clinton lost because she was not left-wing enough. And Bernie Sanders's surprising success shows that anybody who wants to be the nominee has to appeal to the Sanders demographic.

This article is not really here to endorse any candidate, you can read my other articles to figure out who I'm voting for, it is however here to point out just how difficult it will be to win the nomination.

A candidate has to, according to the so-called experts: be left-leaning but also be a centrist, and be able to get minorities out to vote but also appeal to some Trump voters that they think they can win over by calling out the President's divisive tactics.

Trickle-down economics and massive deregulation always throws the economy into a recession, but the question now is when will that happen? If it happens during the 2020 election it's safe to say it's over for Trump, but if a Democrat has to challenge a Republican while the economy is doing great, it will be all the more difficult. The election will turn into a debate over so-called "social" issues (assuming Trump does not take us to war).

Issues that seem to be on most Americans' minds are healthcare and immigration. The healthcare debate will turn into a debate amongst Democrats over whether or not single-payer is possible and will likely be one of the most divisive issues of the primary. Immigration will be easy, every Democrat will go the safe route and boldly proclaim that putting children in cages and letting them die is not good. This will lead to Trump accusing them of being Antifa thugs.

The road to the White House is not meant to be easy. You need to fight hard to win the hearts of Americans, unless you are a Republican then you just need to win over rich Americans and let the electoral college do the rest of the work.

But seriously, we need to start the process of finding someone that will undo the years of horror unleashed by the Trump administration and also put the country in a new direction. Someone that will help the old and the young, and all workers. It's time for a leader that works for the American laborer, not the American entrepreneur, and above all, it is time for a new president.

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