US Environmental Negligence Persists Under the Cloud of COVID-19

Trump’s exploitation of pollution standards and pursuit of his economic agenda: self-interest and environmental recklessness are recurring themes of the administration – but for how much longer can they be sustained? 

It is a strange, daunting, and challenging time for US politics. Amid a hot and heavy election battle, many have seen an opportunity to throw satirical punches against the US administration for its hardly adequate response to national crises. However, as the global superpower — and one of the world’s biggest polluters — their inadequate response is not as hysterical. It is deeply unsettling.

At the White House in July, Trump protested: “So showerheads – you take a shower, the water doesn’t come out. […] So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair – I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect.” Later, in August, a suggestion was made by one of his puppet agencies, the Department of Energy, to repeal regulation to enable greater water flow. The regulation — forbidding showerheads from producing greater than 2.5 gallons of water per minute — was welcomed by both sides of the aisle in Congress and given the signature of approval by another Republican President, George H.W. Bush, in 1992. The US administration wants this restriction to pertain to each nozzle instead of the entire showerhead. Keep in mind that this is a period in which large-scale droughts are drying up western states, which academics have linked to human actions.  

Environmental protection was once a bipartisan issue but has become a contentious topic painted in primary colours, especially in the age of ‘fake news’.

Remember, though, that this is a President who blurts out all and everything that is on his mind, however nonsensical it may be. He has been guilty of perpetuating fake news to the masses at press briefings on the pandemic. Cough, cough… disinfectant as a cure to coronavirus? But he has also been proven to do the same on environmental issues. Wind turbines that are being built to lessen the dependence of the US on dirty, climate polluting fossil fuels? Well, according to the President, the noise of them causes cancer! His administration survives on the popularity of ridiculous soundbites. They keep MAGA hat bearers entertained and allow them to feel their ludicrous views be legitimised by the establishment. He is the Comedian-in-Chief, clowning away as he destroys our only, precious home, all to get votes, votes, votes.  

Ego, selfishness, ignorance, disregard, and contempt are now at the heart of the US federal environmental policy. The President’s hair trumps the environment. While the administration proclaims to work for ordinary Americans, it is really working for the very unordinary business elite and corporations. We have witnessed the opportunism of the administration in using the Covid-19 cloud looming over us to erode environmental laws while we’re too busy worried about the spread of a deadly virus, a recession and getting the nation’s children back into the classroom where they can resume their development. The President turns a blind eye to the prosperity that is guaranteed with a green economy in a post-COVID-19 world in favour of the ol’ air-toxifying manufacturing and fossil fuel industries that blossomed in the ‘great’ days of America.  

During the so-called “lockdown”, the federal government set more pessimistic targets for vehicle emissions by changing the goalpost from a 5% decrease per annum to 1.5%. The government kept leasing public land for gas and oil firms. But most shockingly, the government permitted these firms to violate environmental pollution regulations with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), now better known as the Environmental Destruction Agency, weakening its stance on enforcement through the pandemic. Trump and his minions are silently tiptoeing around the corridors of Washington, D.C., winking at big corporations to give them the go-ahead for untold environmental damage so that they can get a business advantage while the world suffers. 

These corporations have pushed the limits of legislation designed to keep everyone safe.

What is alarming is the effect on the health of Americans of these regulatory rollbacks. High levels of pollution are known to lead to respiratory diseases and are likely to exacerbate the effects of coronavirus. A troublesome truth is that black communities are strategically situated close to power plants and subject to environmental racism. Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, recognised racial and environmental injustice in his convention speech, while Trump gave the green light for polluters to exude more poisonous gas. This is despite the EPA itself being aware that environmental racism is very much a real thing.  

The EPA holds at its heart an unwavering commitment to repealing regulations despite having just 10 years to avert climate change causing irreversible harm. While states such as California have taken the Trump administration to court to dispute the repeal of “America’s bedrock environmental law”, the National Environmental Policy Act, the feasibility of a Biden administration completely undoing the mess of environmental policy that the Trump administration has overseen is becoming slimmer and slimmer with each passing day.  

The 2020 presidential election will be the most important one in history. It takes place when there exists a concerted effort to vandalise our irreplaceable planet. It is only right that we call it out for what it is – thuggery from the highest federal offices of the United States of America. There is a moral duty imposed on all of us across the world: we must preserve planet Earth for future generations. As a Scottish citizen, I am in no position to order American citizens on whom to vote for this November. But the decision is simple: choose to follow the path of environmental carelessness or choose the path of compassion.  

The environmental clock is ticking… American citizens must register to vote and turn out on polling day for what is truly right and just for the world and for humanity. 

Art by Tatiana Dickins


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