By: Martha Molfetas
Just now, the United States Senate voted 52-46 to have Scott Pruitt head the nation's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He was confirmed by the tightest margin of any past EPA head, and despite calls to wait for a review of 3,000 recently released emails between himself and fossil fuel companies in Oklahoma. What was said in those emails along with potential conflicts of interest will not be known to the American people until sometime next week, but as of right now - Scott Pruitt will be the Administrator of the EPA, responsible for protecting our environment and American lives.
Scott Pruitt comes to the helm of the EPA with a long history of standing up for polluter interests and against the protection of our shared environment - our air, water, and soil. As Attorney General of Oklahoma, he sued the EPA exhaustively in the interests of oil and gas companies. Last week he went as far as saying climate change was a 'religious belief'. He will come to head the agency and fulfill the aspirations of the Trump Administration to dismantle environmental protections and regulations that literally save the lives of millions of our our compatriots. The mission of the EPA is to protect the health and environment for all Americans. After the revelations of these past weeks, it's clear Scott Pruitt will stand squarely against the manifest of the EPA.
As the world's top polluter, the US has a big role to play in environmental justice and a smooth transition towards clean energy. Pruitt as the head of the EPA sends a clear signal to fossil fuel interests that they will have free reign at the expense of us all, despite the start of a downward trend on oil and gas markets.
Before President Richard Nixon founded the EPA, swaths of the American landscape looked practically apocalyptic. Toxic waste found its way into our water. The fog of pollution enveloped cities like New York. Companies responsible for these actions had little oversight of their actions. Then the EPA was founded and clean up efforts began. It was never perfect. We still have those Erin Brockovich real-life David and Goliath stories. From the 1970s to the 1990s - protecting our shared environment was a nonpartisan issue. It was a shared sentiment that protecting the American people and their well-being was the responsibility of our government. Perhaps Nixon said it best:
The Congress, the Administration and the public all share a profound commitment to the rescue of our natural environment, and the preservation of the Earth as a place both habitable by and hospitable to man.
—President Richard Nixon, message to Congress on establishing the EPA.
We all stand to gain when our water is clean and our air is breathable. In these 'climate denial' years, the sheer idea of protecting the health and well-being of our nation by curbing emissions or protecting communities from pollution has become a political bayonet, sharply defined as 'jobs' verses 'conservation'; too bad that line of thinking is demonstrably false.
Protecting our environment should not be a partisan issue; it is a survival issue. It's the many who all require a safe environment to exist verses the few who stand to gain temporarily from polluting profits, but for how long? Oil producing nation's like Saudi Arabia are diversifying their economies - even transitioning away from fossil fuels through clean energy investments. Discoveries of new oil and gas reserves are at an all time low. Costs for fossil fuels are now higher than clean renewable alternatives like wind and solar. Right now in America, clean energy industries employ over two times more people than oil and gas. Governors across America are calling for the White House to support clean energy investments. If Saudi Arabia can see the writing on the wall, so should the United States.
In a world altered by the affects of climate change and the environmental damage of pollution - our work at Impact Human has never been more important. In the years ahead, we will continue to show the human face of these injustices to amplify awareness, and unpack the complexities surrounding these issues. Climate change is here and now. Environmental devastation continues to harm communities in the US and across the globe. We are just beginning our work. Join us in the months and years ahead. We have no intention of stopping now.