The 47th Earth Day falls this year on April 22, a Saturday. The fortuity of a weekend date makes Earth Day the perfect opportunity to marshall the energy of the wildly successful Women’s marches around the world to demand that Congress and the Trump Administration protect our planet (hat tip to Emmett Fellow Julia Forgie for suggesting the idea).
Perhaps no policy area has faced more immediate attack from the new Trump administration than the environment. Today, he signed executive memoranda reviving both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone Pipeline. He also ordered Environmental Protection Agency employees not to speak to the press or disseminate information on social media. Yesterday, he ordered a suspension of all new business activities with outside contractors and EPA. On the same day, the Center for Disease Control announced it was canceling a conference on the public health effects of climate change. On Saturday, just as Trump was inaugurated, all mention of President Obama’s climate polices was scrubbed from the White House website. In place of the climate policies, Trump and his staff spelled out his new energy plan, predictably called “An America First Energy Plan.” The plan announces that the new administration will get rid of the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, which includes the Clean Power Plan and fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. The Waters of the United States is also on the chopping block. In place of these policies, the Trump Administration will focus on the fracking of shale gas and reviving the coal industry. Last week, The Hill leaked a Trump Administration report that recommends gutting clean energy programs in the Department of Energy, including eliminating the Office of Electricity, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Office of Fossil Energy, which as the Hill explains, “focuses on technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” And of course Trump has proposed that Scott Pruitt head EPA even though Pruitt has sued EPA 13 times, including to invalidate both the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Air Act mercury rule. Rick Perry, the DOE Secretary-designee, once proposed eliminating the agency Trump has tapped him to head. Trump has also said he will “get rid of” the Paris Agreement, removing the U.S. from it leadership role in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
I realize that some advocates have proposed a march on April 15, Tax Day, to demand that Trump release his tax returns. I support a demonstration to get him to do so. But I have a hunch that a call to protest Trump’s environmental policies will generate more passion and intensity and greater attendance. The earth is under assault like never before. The NoDAPL protests generated massive public attention and at least a short-term victory for protestors. We have just experienced the hottest year on record, hotter than the records recorded in 2014 and 2015. Arctic sea ice hit record lows every day in December. Bleaching of Australia’s Great Coral Reef has left it almost dead. California is only slowly recovering from record drought. Sea level rise is already causing coastal flooding. Incidents of massive flooding around the globe are commonplace. We don’t have the luxury of four years of environmental rollbacks. We need to demand — loudly, clearly, and in huge numbers — that Trump and Congress protect our planet. Earth Day is the perfect day to do so.