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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Starbucks Corrects Its Wrongs In Light Of Recent Racial Bias Issue

All stores in the U.S. will be closed on May 29th to perform racial bias training.

Recently, a video of two African-American men being arrested in their local Starbucks for simply standing and waiting for their friends in the lobby/seating area surfaced on the internet. Since this situation was brought to light, there has been an uproar of public outrage focused on the blatant racial bias these men were faced with. Even Starbucks itself had something to say about it.

For many African-American citizens, this situation is all too common. Being racially profiled is not a thing of the past and more than just these two men have experienced it. The ACLU writes about the experiences of citizens being racially profiled, stating,

"We rely on the police to protect us from harm and promote fairness and justice in our communities. But racial profiling has led countless people to live in fear, casting entire communities as suspect simply because of what they look like, where they come from, or what religion they adhere to."

In light of the recent incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks, many fans expressed outrage in the comments section of this post, but Starbucks responded to almost every viral, angry comment:

However, in the midst all of the outraged comments were fans who appreciated the message that Starbucks was trying to send:

Despite the mixed reviews on Starbucks' course of action, the company is standing strong in their choice to address the issue and correct it.

People come to Starbucks stores to drink coffee, hang out, talk with their friends, and have a good time. It is absurd that these two men were escorted out and arrested for doing just that. I, personally, have done that same thing and have never once been asked to leave.

As a country, we need to think about the way we treat people of color and other minorities. It is a shame that this kind of public outcry had to happen to bring racial profiling to our attention. People are treated unfairly for no reason other than the color of their skin every day.

Way to go, Starbucks.

Thank you for recognizing that this was not an isolated incident and that racial profiling happens all the time. Thank you for taking the time to publicly announce that you are willing to go through the proper training with your employees to ensure that it doesn't happen ever again. But most of all, thank you for making a statement to the rest of the nation and the world about what kind of company you are, what kind of people you represent, and that racial injustice will not be tolerated.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Why Earth Day Is Underrated, And What You Can Do

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” –The Lorax

April 22 may be just another day to most, but with climate change on the rise and wildlife becoming extinct, it’s more important now than ever to recognize Earth Day and understand what it entails. Our society as a whole cannot let this day pass with nothing done. It has to serve as a reminder of the action that must be taken.

Late January of 1969 would come to be a turning point for our nation. At the time, the worst oil spill in history occurred in Santa Barbara, California. Founder of Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson was horrified, yet inspired. Soon after, he announced his idea to teach the nation about the environment and built a staff to promote events across the country.

Earth Day brought thousands of colleges and universities together to fight for the cause. It became a sense of unity for everyone. No matter who you were, what race you were, where you came from, Earth Day was able to empower these people and help them realize they all wanted the same thing for the home we share. This kind of behavior is exactly what we need today, and should enable us to see that we’re all on the same side.

By the time 1990 came, Earth Day became a global event. 200 million people were involved to fight for environmental issues.

Today, Earth Day and the environment face many challenges. With those who deny climate change, deforestation, oil lobbyists, fracking, dying animal life, politicians dividing our nation on these issues, and much more, Earth Day astoundingly continues to prevail through the obstacles. With over 190 counties participating in the event each year, and more than 1 billion people, it’s never too late to do your part and contribute to the day.

Here are some basic things that anyone can do to make a change. Every day counts, and anything you do matters.

1. Join a local outdoors cleanup

Rivers, forests, beaches, whatever is near you. Help clean up litter and debris.

2. Carpool

This is probably the simplest thing you and your friends or family can do. If you’re going to the same place, drive together. For every mile you don’t drive- you’re reducing your carbon footprint by 1 pound.

3. Bring reusable bags when you shop

They’re cheap, cute, and save an abundance on plastic.

4. Use a reusable water bottle

Save on wasting plastic bottles every day.

5. Use environmentally friendly cleaning products

Typical cleaning products are high in chemicals and toxicity.

6. Always recycle!

Paper, plastic, cans, anything you can. Every individual thing recycled makes a difference.

7. Use LED lightbulbs

This can reduce your footprint 450 pounds per year.

8. Volunteer at local environmental groups

See if your school has an environmental club, or anything local in your town. See how many people you can get to do it with you and make a day out of it.

9. Donate your clothes and check out thrift stores

Instead of throwing them out, give them to somewhere they will be of use. Also, thrift shopping is inexpensive and you can find some really unexpectedly great items!

10. Don’t wait until Earth Day to do all of these things

Keep up the green behavior year-round.

Do your part, and do what you can today.

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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