Poisoning the Planet: The Attack on the Environment

We are under attack.

Of course, the we in that statement can be considered to be environmentalists or environmentalism. In a larger sense, however, we are the people of the United States. And to expand it even further, we are the entire global environment.

This attack is being undertaken by agencies and institutions of the U.S. government under the leadership of President Donald J. Trump. These authorities are the very same ones that were originally intended to protect our environment, but they’ve now been turned against us. Analysis by the New York Times, Harvard Law School, and Columbia Law School1 identifies 95 environmental regulations being rolled back or eliminated under Trump. The changes are happening so fast that we need constant vigilance2 to keep track of them. The Environmental Protection Agency, Departments of the Interior and Transportation, and other governmental institutions are leading the charge. Although many of the items listed are being challenged in court, Trump is also rapidly replacing judges3 with ones who will be more sympathetic to his causes and beholden to its influence.



Yes, our nation is under attack. The result is that our country, indeed the entire world, is being poisoned4. Our very sovereignty is at stake.

The case can certainly be made that election interference by Russia and possibly other nations constitutes an attack on our country. A case can also be made that our president and his administration constantly attack our rights and institutions, including that of a free press and the freedom of speech. Even facts, which don’t appear to matter anymore, are under attack by the president. But arguably, it’s the attack on the environment that amounts to our greatest long-term threat, especially in terms of climate change. How is an attack on the environment also an attack on our country? Let’s check in with the Pentagon5. Or, take it from this report6 by governmental climate scientists.

Trump and his allies don’t believe it. His record on climate change7 makes a mockery of nearly all efforts to solve the crisis. He has:

• Suppressed climate and related science, mostly within the Federal Government.

• Promoted unfettered oil, natural gas, and especially coal development.

• Undermined efforts for clean-energy development and energy efficiency.

• Tried to undercut California’s world-leading climate progress.

This removal and reduction of environmental protections, the auctioning off of millions of acres of new drilling leases on public land, and the drastic increase in domestic oil production have all resulted in, among other things, the reversal of three consecutive years of declining U.S. carbon emissions8. This matters.

You might say that politically, our country is having a moment right now. We tend to have such moments every four years, but these days, with impeachment, Russian interference, and the Democratic debates and primaries, change is occurring more and more rapidly. Things are happening so fast in Washington that it’s nearly impossible for us normal people to process it. So many lies are emanating from the executive branch that the fact-checkers are facing exhaustion. One thing is abundantly clear, however: For the environment, Trump is the worst president in history.

This is not the opinion of just one person, party, or organization. It’s the consensus of nine prominent environmental groups9, including the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society. They state in part, “Donald Trump’s administration has unleashed an unprecedented assault on our environment and the health of our communities. His policies threaten our climate, air, water, public lands, wildlife, and oceans; no amount of his greenwashing can change the simple fact: Donald Trump has been the worst president for our environment in history.”

The fact of climate change amounts to an existential threat10: one to our very being. And President Trump and his supporters evidently take glee in exacerbating the crisis. The greatest outrage of all is that conservatives, especially members of the Republican Party aren’t outraged.

We should all be outraged.


1. Popovich N, Albeck-Ripka L, Pierre-Louis K (2019). “95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump.” The New York Times, updated Dec. 21, 2019 [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html?mtrref=undefined&gwh=16907EE646ABB729A327ADA1C1C44AD2&gwt=pay&assetType=REGIWALL].

2. Greshko M, Parker L, Howard BC, Stone D, Borunda A, Gibbens S (2019). “A running list of how President Trump is changing environmental policy.” com, May 3, 2019 [https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/03/how-trump-is-changing-science-environment/].

3. Petersen C, Szafir CJ (2020). “Trump is Remaking the Federal Judiciary at a Historic Rate.” Real Clear Politics, Jan. 4, 2020 [https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2020/01/04/trump_is_remaking_the_federal_judiciary_at_a_historic_rate__142073.html].

4. Brooks, David (2017). “Donald Trump Poisons the World.” The New York Times, updated Jun. 2, 2017 [https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/opinion/donald-trump-poisons-the-world.html].

5. Capaccio A, Dlouhy J, and Natter A (2019). “Pentagon Warns of Dire Risk to Bases, Troops From Climate Change.” Bloomberg News, Jan. 18, 2019 [https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-18/in-dire-report-pentagon-warns-bases-imperiled-by-climate-change].

6. USGCRP (2017). Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Vol. 1. Wuebbles DJ, Fahey DW, Hibbard KA, Dokken DJ, Stewart BC, Maycock TK, eds. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA [doi: 10.7930/J0j964J6]

7. Lavelle M (2019). “Donald Trump’s Record on Climate Change.” Inside Climate News, Dec. 19, 2019 [https://insideclimatenews.org/news/19122019/trump-climate-policy-record-rollback-fossil-energy-history-candidate-profile].

8. Rhodium Group (2019). “Preliminary US Emissions Estimates for 2018.” com, Jan. 8, 2019 [https://rhg.com/research/preliminary-us-emissions-estimates-for-2018/]

9. Earthjustice.org (2020). “Environmental and Public Health Advocates Agree: Trump is the Worst President for our Environment in History”, Feb. 4, 2020 [https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/trump-worst-president-for-environment-in-history]

10. Horvath D (2018). “Existential”. Oct. 21, 2018 [https://dontpoopinthepool.blogspot.com/2018/10/existential.html].

Contributed by:
Dan Horvath
Blogger and Executive Committee Member, Sierra Club Portage Trail Group
See Their Go Green Go Profile Here

Graphic by: New York Times