The Environment 2020 Elections Inequality

President Trump’s four year long war on science needs to come to an end

The past four years have been irreversibly affected by efforts from the Trump administration to limit the use of science in policy making. During this administration’s tenure all of the progressive climate reforms made by its predecessors have been reversed – the United States removed itself from The Paris Agreement and the wildfires raging across the West Coast have doubled in size causing the forced evacuations of more than 90,000 residents. To make matters worse, these fires show no sign of slowing down as increased emissions from heat-trapping gases have led to warmer and drier conditions in the area. The flames which have torn across the West Coast thus far in 2020 indicate the most active fire season on record. As the climate warms, the wildfires will continue to grow larger and more frequent. Still, President Trump denies the enormity of the threat presented by climate change. Our nation cannot afford another four years of his environmental inaction.

Both presidential debates last month included questions regarding climate change, prompting the candidates to speak on their plans to rectify the situation. But here’s the thing—there is no rectifying it. Global warming has worsened with every passing year since at least 1950. The only viable option left—apart from laying in the grave which has been dug for all living beings—is to try to slow down the progress of global warming and not allow the earth to become entirely unlivable for the future generations. Perhaps this is a classic case of too little, too late.

Since taking office President Trump has invalidated the well-known fact that carbon dioxide emissions are caused by human activities, labeling it “alarmist.” Instead, he has held onto the American coal industry as well as domestic oil production for dear life, therefore accelerating fossil fuel development. On the debate stage a few Thursday’s ago, the president proudly stuck up his faux green thumb and proclaimed that his fervent solution to save the environment is to plant more trees.

On the other hand, Joe Biden’s plan is only a little less ashy. His campaign promises a strict reduction of net carbon emissions through the creation of new energy-efficient homes and electric vehicle charging stations—but there is a big discrepancy. The former vice president cites support of the promotion of clean energy while simultaneously assuring voters that the jobs associated with natural gas production will remain secure. So, he must be lying to someone. A real transition from fossil fuels toward renewable energy will inevitably result in the elimination of the oil and coal industries. At the rate in which the world is warming, this elimination might need to come sooner than we’d expect, leaving millions of working class Americans out of work. But, at least it’s a step away from immediate and total destruction of the earth.

The hottest year ever recorded was in 2016, with 2019 coming in a close second place by less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit. Right now, there is an increased urgency to implement real change because doom is impending. Whoever winds up in the Oval Office next must plan for the economic pitfalls that will come along with such a change—but nonetheless ensure that the change happens, and fast. That is why it is imperative that all U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote do so today. In more ways than one, we hold the fate of the world in the palms of our hands. 


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Coverage of celebrities’ homes being destroyed by the LA fires revealed a HUGE class problem

The nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century is getting a bigger spotlight as celebrities, alongside other Los Angeles residents, lose their homes. The California fires, known as “Camp Fire” sweeping through the Paradise area, and the “Woolsey Fire” which has destroyed much of the Malibu area, has altogether killed 59 people and forced 52,000 to evacuate. Caitlyn Jenner’s house was recently destroyed and Liam Hemsworth recently tweeted out this photo:

Losing your home is devastating no matter what and some celebrities are using their status to bring about a positive change, while others are using it for personal gains. Liam Hemsworth and Miley Cyrus recently donated $500,000 to The Malibu Foundation through Cyrus’ charity, Happy Hippie, while others have visited Red Cross shelters and firefighters. However, some like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, decided to go an alternate route. The couple recently hired private firefighters to save their mansion. Though saving their home also saved nearby houses as it was in a cul-de-sac, I have to wonder why Kim and Kanye didn’t offer to hire firefighters for neighborhoods other than their own. The Kardashians did take time to appear at People’s Choice Awards, where they dedicated their award win to “all of the firefighters, the law enforcement, and the first responders.” Most recently, after going out to dinner with Kanye and her sisters, Kim posted a photo in which she was getting fitted for a new custom diamond and gold grill. It seems despite the trauma caused by fires, Kim and Kanye will be just fine. 

What’s infuriating is that while the media tilts towards stories of celebrities losing their homes, the stories of those truly impoverished by the fires aren’t being heard. The poverty level in Malibu and Paradise (where the fires have taken place) is 10.5% and 14.1% respectively. As Chris Sturr, Co-editor of Dollars & Sense said:

A screenshot of a series of tweets by Chris Sturr that reads I actually looked it up for this very reason. The median household income in Malibu is $130K, and 1/3 are renters, and 10% live below the poverty line. A lot of them probably work for those celebrities and millionaires. But they won't be helped by the celebrities' and millionaires' insurance policies
[Image Description: A screenshot of a series of tweets by Chris Sturr that reads “I actually looked it up for this very reason. The median household income in Malibu is $130K, and 1/3 are renters, and 10% live below the poverty line. A lot of them probably work for those celebrities and millionaires. But they won’t be helped by the celebrities’ and millionaires’ insurance policies.”] Photo via Twitter.
Many of the less-wealthy LA residents are forced to stay in evacuation shelters and with a lack of affordable housing options, have nowhere else to go. Natural disasters like this will only grow in intensity in the years to come, thanks to climate change. The people likely to suffer the most continue to be those who live in poor or low-income areas.

What makes this even worse is where California is getting its labor to fight the fires (and has since World War II) – namely that of prison inmates. Prisoners have been fighting California fires since the 1940s and currently make up about a third of the state’s wildfire-fighting personnel. Though the work is supposedly voluntary and is paid, they are only given $1 an hour plus $2 a day with long shifts that can last up to 72 hours. Inmates can earn time off of their sentence, offers them better treatment and the sense that they are doing good work. “It’s not just the [prison] walls you get rid of,” said inmate Michael Dignan in 2014. “You learn a lot about yourself. You learn that there is stuff you can put yourself through that you never thought you would have been able to do.” That being said, once prisoners are released, it rarely leads to a job after their release. More to the point, it saves California $90 million to $100 million a year, say officials.

There are also the consequences as a result of working so close to these conditions. Firefighters are known to have many health issues as a result of their job, from respiratory diseases to cancer, and stress. Are prison inmates being informed of these risks? And if so, are they being provided with protections to safeguard against these risks as much as is humanly possible? All this leaves me wondering why people working such a dangerous job are given such a horrifyingly low pay.

When natural disasters affect public figures, it has the added bonus of calling the world’s attention to an event that often affects thousands. But, we can’t ignore the privilege that many of these figures hold. In time, thanks to their wealth and insurance, their houses will be rebuilt and they can move on with their lives. For some, this isn’t always an option. We need to pay attention to their stories and ask them what we can be doing to help them rebuild their lives.