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General News    H3'ed 10/3/19

Tomgram: Frida Berrigan, Protecting the Children on a Trumpian Planet

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President Trump Is Attacking Their Environment

He's selling off national parks to loggers and miners, making fervently sure that ever more carbon will be pumped into the skies, and that more noxious chemicals and industrial waste will flow into the waters of this land.

We live in New London, Connecticut, a relatively small town, just 5.5 square miles, so two million acres is incomprehensible to me. But that's the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments out West. Or at least it was until Trump's Interior Department began moving to shrink these wild public lands for the benefit of private interests.

National Geographic has been keeping track of his administration's abuse of natural resources. By now, it has recorded 15 major assaults on the natural world since he entered the White House in January 2017, including the undermining of the Endangered Species Act. Until July 2018, the act that protects the black footed ferret and the grizzly bear, among many other species, put more weight on safeguarding their imperilled habitats than on economic considerations. Once this administration got its hands on it, however, the money side instantly won out and the animals and the rest of us (including my kids) lost.

In August, the New York Times counted 84 environmental laws or regulations that the Trump administration has already rolled back with more to come, even as it promotes pipelines and works to open previously pristine national parks to oil and natural gas drilling. According to a recent report prepared by New York University Law School's State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, such changes "could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality every year."

Not so surprisingly, my kids love ferrets and bears and butterflies and want clean water and clean air.

Trump Is Attacking Their Education

He's slashing public education budgets, opening space to even more for-profit schools, and modeling a bully swagger that's a caricature of every bad kid.

My kids go to good public schools in New London. The little ones attend schools that offer theater, music, and visual arts every week. The older one is in a non-profit charter school that focuses on interdisciplinary work and community investment, while cultivating a strong, kind school culture. They are all thriving and happy; the schools themselves, less so. Each of them is struggling, while the message from the top is: make do with less.

A budget analysis from the Center for American Progress finds that the Trump administration's 2020 education budget proposal would eliminate 29 public school programs, including after-school programming in poor communities and professional development for teachers, while cutting a total of $8.5 billion, a 12% decrease from the fiscal year 2019 budget. Over the last two years, the Department of Education has suggested even more massive cuts, though Congress has rejected them. We can only hope that its members will again "just say no" to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's grim proposals. Still, even the money that does get to cities and municipalities is so much less than what such schools and their teachers and kids really need.

The public college scene is bleak, too. The way things are looking now, my kids may be going to plumbing school! College has never been more expensive and recent moves by the Department of Education have made accrediting for-profit colleges that bilk their students so much easier.

Trump Is Attacking Their Future

The world is on fire. That phrase used to be a rhetorical device for expressing the urgency of problems. Now, from the Amazon to Indonesia's forests, it's literally, as well as existentially, true! Donald Trump is making the future so much more perilous for my children by lowering the bar for nuclear war and accelerating the pace of the climate crisis.

James Hansen, one of the world's leading climatologists, has been ringing the alarm bell about climate change for decades. The Columbia University professor has shown vividly how, thanks to the burning of fossil fuels, the Earth's climate has already moved above the temperature range that supported the previous 10,000 years of civilization. In "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene," a "hothouse Earth" scenario put together by leading ecologists in 2018, they suggested that, if greenhouse gas emissions weren't cut -- and they're still rising! -- with reasonable rapidity, there could be a point of no return. Critical planetary systems could spiral out of control, causing "serious disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies," even if those emissions were then curbed in a serious way. This should terrify us all, at least for our children's sake, if not our own.

And speaking not just of something, but of someone who should terrify us all, consider President Trump's recent response to hurricane season. "Nuke 'em," he suggested during a hurricane briefing at the White House and he wasn't just kidding around. He meant it! The president actually said, "I got it. I got it. Why don't we nuke them?" Given how many of our tax dollars go to nuclear weapons, there should be some use for them, right? We should deliver true "fire and fury" somewhere, so why not directly into the eye of a hurricane? Despite having no true military superpower rival, the United States is on track to spend $494 billion on nuclear weapons over the next 10 years, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office analysis, and closer to $2 trillion over the next three decades.

Trump Is Attacking Their Bodies

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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