The 2020 election is debatably the most important election in recent history for the United States. Our country has become increasingly politically polarized as we've watched our current leadership try and deal with the coronavirus outbreak, respond to protests against police brutality and racism, and rush to fill the open Supreme Court seat after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The outcome of this election will essentially determine the approach the government takes when dealing with many social justice issues, environmental rights in particular. With each passing year, climate change becomes an increasingly pressing issue for the government to deal with as natural disasters and forest fires become more common. The Democrats and Republicans continue to disagree about climate science, clinging to their political beliefs rather than facing the fact that humans are putting the planet in danger.
The current administration has ignored climate science for the past four years, reversed many important environmental policies, pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement (an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions around the world), opened forests to logging, and has set goals to increase oil production. Another four years in office would give Trump more time to reverse the progress the country has made towards becoming more sustainable. Not only would his re-election be problematic for us as a nation as the struggle to reduce carbon emissions becomes increasingly important, it is dangerous for the entire world as the United States is already the second largest producer of greenhouse gases and the largest producer of plastic waste, with no set goals to reduce our impact. The Trump administration has decided that making money and protecting mega-corporations is more important than protecting the health and wellbeing of us non-billionaires.
The most recent attack on environmental policy comes in the form of the Trump administration lifting the federal protections of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska to allow for logging and development. Tongass is the world's largest remaining temperate rainforest with 16.7 million acres of land now open to destruction from corporations. This action goes directly against the wishes of the state of Alaska, and is a major setback for the environmental movement in the US which attempts to protect forests like this one. Trump has claimed many times, in campaign rallies, on international visits, and in the presidential debates the United States has "the cleanest air and water", and that he has made air cleaner since becoming president. This is a) not true as millions of Americans do not have access to safe drinking water, but b) forests and trees absorb a large amount of our carbon emissions globally and without them, the earth's temperature would be rising at a much faster rate than it already is. Anyone who knows anything about trees knows that they are critical to our survival, so I'm not sure how destroying an ecosystem with 16 million acres of trees fits into his idea of continuing to provide the country with the cleanest air we've "ever had".
The scariest part about this policy roll back is that most of his plans to further drill for oil and log forests fly under the radar of the major news outlets and don't get enough media coverage to draw national attention. The current administration has rolled back over 100 environmental policies thus far, with even more roll backs planned, but there is hardly ever a story that makes headlines. Environmental groups around the country plan to protest the most recent policy change and protect the forests, but we need a president who is genuinely concerned for the environment, or at least one who believes in climate science.
Joe Biden has made some questionable comments about things like fracking, but as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in a recent interview when asked about Biden's environmental stance, "There is no question that Joe Biden is a much better person in that position to be receptive and actually listen to the voices of advocates than Donald Trump". She followed up her comment by saying that it will be a privilege to lobby him [Biden] in the future, particularly about the Green New Deal, a plan she helped create to reduce U.S. emissions, regulate and monitor corporate plans involving the environment, and become more sustainable as a country.
For the safety of the country and for the world, we need a president who recognizes the negative environmental impact the United States is having on the world and has plans to improve it. A Trump re-election puts the earth's finite natural resources at risk for abuse and destruction, which would leave us, the human population, with even less time to race against a running clock in order to reverse the environmental damage that has already been done.
Get out and vote!