The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
This day, April 22, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This should be a notable milestone, but its significance is being overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic and President Trump’s personal war on the environment.
A half a century ago our nation and the world took a stand against the deterioration of our environment and uncontrolled destruction of nature. A movement was launched for establishing national and international safeguards to reverse course and secure a better future.
Notable improvements on pollution controls, protected lands and waters and wildlife stewardship have been achieved over the last 50 years — enabled by new legislation, and national and international policies to further government and citizen conservation efforts. Unfortunately, with global change and escalating growth of human population needs and demands, further progress is increasingly challenging.
Made more difficult in large part because of the extraordinary reversal of U.S. government leadership and programs to protect environmental quality and sustainable management practices.
The Trump administration has rejected the well-documented science of climate change, and consistently sought to reverse and erode U.S. environmental law and policy.
A major example of the erosion of environmental policies is in the relentless construction of the monumental Trump Wall, with the administration waiving of all federal, state and local laws governing its construction. This is the most extensive waiving of law by the executive branch in our history.
Where previously Congress required the executive branch to provide for citizen oversight of planning and management of government programs impacting the environment, we now have autocratic rule strategically undermining environmental legislation and policy. Scientists and other experts, public land and natural resource managers, and the public are simply ignored.
When completed, the wall will divide North America in half, and as planned will be wired for electric lights shining all night long. The erosion of the quality of life for border communities and culture, local economies and the natural environment and wildlife will be needlessly enormous and transformative — for a political campaign prop.
All good faith efforts to engage the Department of Homeland Security, which has the administrative lead in construction, have proven to be a waste of time. DHS does not provide for any substantive review of its plans, either by state government agencies, local governments and communities, or private experts and citizens. All are equally ignored by a DHS that fundamentally operates outside the law and citizen oversight.
As usual DHS really has no analyses or plans, except to build Mr. Trump’s wall as directed, nor will it provide any substantive response to federal, state or local government entities for an opportunity for meaningful review and cooperation with the American public.
This negation of citizens participation and oversight of our government is a fundamental threat to our Republic and democracy. For the first time in my life, I have to conclude that traditional efforts to inform government decisions are a waste of time.
This Earth Day should not slip away unnoticed. April 22 is an opportunity for us to rededicate our personal lives and communities to restore our rights and efforts as citizens to oversee and actively participate in our government policies, and our stewardship of our planet.
As a priority, our celebration and dedication for Earth Day should be to reestablish our responsibilities for stewardship, and elect new leadership in November that will honor its significance.
Roger McManus is a biologist who formerly served in two administrations of the Executive Office of the President, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and as CEO for the Ocean Conservancy and a senior manager in several other major conservation organizations. He is currently on the board of directors of the Friends of the Sonoran Desert.
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