The topic of climate change didn’t make the cut during the presidential debates, despite the recent news regarding the Great Barrier Reef’s continued demise (50% of it is already dead or dying). But that’s not the only story that affirms our belief that climate change was unjustly ignored this election. Recent developments beg our attention towards climate action even more.
Remember way back when, Sanders was the only candidate to vehemently discuss climate change during initial debates. Now the presidential debate moderators are more concerned with topics such as dumpy’s offensive remarks and Hill’s emails than addressing the topic of global warming or science-related issues that puts the public’s health in jeopardy. Some republican officials continue to avoid using the words climate change, or they simply say it’s a hoax. Seeing how funds from the fossil fuel industry have been funneled into campaign donations on both sides of the aisle is hardly a surprise. It’s estimated that $29.6m in campaign contributions came from fossil fuel companies in the 2016 election cycle, according to ClimateTruth.org.
Several weeks ago I was listening to the radio as Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, spoke about his upcoming plans for Louisiana. One caller addressed climate change, and asked, how the governor plans to alter the course of human impact on climate, but the caller was interrupted by the host and not allowed to finish her question. Edwards avoided answering and instead, said I’m not ready to say climate change is caused by humans, as if saying it’s still up for debate, without even mentioning the possibility of alternative energy.
With numerous protests against offshore drilling, it’s shocking that the Governor doesn’t have a lengthier grasp. For years numerous communities in Louisiana have been devastated by oil drilling and chemical factories. One example among many, is Mossville, a small African-American community near Lake Charles damaged by nearby polyvinyl chloride factories for years to the point of making the area uninhabitable to live. Most recently in August, Plaquemines Parish was hit with an oil spill , adding to a long list of parishes who have filed lawsuits against the oil and gas companies, damaging Louisiana’s coast.
In past years the consensus was to accept climate change as a real issues or at least that science-based facts could improve our daily lives, and surprisingly it included some republicans who recognized that these problems were real. This video shows how far republicans have ventured to deny global warming over the years.
The water protectors
For several months now, the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation has tried to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline from being built along their reservation borders. They seek to protect the Missouri River from pipeline eruptions, which is all too common with these pipelines (Alabama’s recent pipeline eruption). It’s a movement that has shown resiliency when confronted with militarized law enforcement, but it’s also a historical moment that has brought together Native American tribes to defend their rights, as the New Yorker explains. Native Americans have always had to defend themselves from the intrusion of industry on their lands. Social media has allowed the movement to spread out more effectively than before, reaching many environmental groups and allies who are traveling and protesting alongside, or donating to the cause from home. Obviously this makes local authorities nervous, since they are siding with the Dakota Access oil pipeline owners. For months peaceful marches were held in Standing Rock’s encampment with prayers and singing to bring attention to their plight. Their peaceful acts have been meant with vicious dogs, military tanks, guns and unjust imprisonment. Nothing warrants these abuses on peaceful marchers or any group asking for what is owed to them after years of being colonized and oppressed.
Presidential candidates on science
During the presidential debates these last weeks, you hardly heard a word on topics related to science. If it wasn’t controversial or involved a scandal, it wasn’t covered. Our candidates on the local or national level don’t pay enough attention to the issues that affect daily life; issues that are integral to our health and well-being, instead they are discussing repealing the Affordable Care act, Roe vs. Wade, hill’s email scandal or dumpy’s sexual assaults. Scientific American graded the presidential candidates based on their understanding of science, and how it can influence policy. They answered questions on climate, technology, agriculture, mental heath, education, among others. One central theme: how science would inform their administration to protect Americans who are vulnerable to public health and environmental threats? Not enough is being done to protect the public. For example in Flint, Michigan, officials switched the water source in April 2014 to the Flint River, with little oversight on quality, which led to residents drinking lead-contaminated water. The local government failed to quickly resolve the issue after residents expressed their concerns about the water’s discoloration, and only took the matter seriously a year later. It’s estimated between 6,000 to 12,000 children were exposed to high levels of lead.
Climate Change and migration
It’s no surprise that climate change plays a role in the Mexico–US borderlands. Recently we have witnessed record high temperatures, causing farmers to abandon their farms; many have been displaced by earthquakes, landslides and crop failures. To make matter worse rampant militarization and unregulated enforcement has made conditions for migrants more deadly. No More Deaths, a humanitarian organization in south Arizona, interviewed Todd Miller, a writer on the topic, to discuss the link between climate change and migration. Hurricanes, floods and drought are impacting Central American Countries and the Caribbean. Some are also being impacted by violence and unjust economic policies. At the moment the U.S. only has a plan to deter unwanted immigrants from entering the country, but has no plans to give asylum to those displaced by climate change, and the issue only seems to worsen with this year’s political rhetoric about deporting immigrants in masses and decreasing refugees.
Environmentalist try to lease lands
What happens when an environmentalist tries to lease public land? As Mother Jones reported, they get turned down by the Bureau of Land Management, which is in charge of leasing land for the purpose of extracting oil. This action was part of the Keep it in the ground movement that wants to stop fossil fuel leases, which allows companies to extract with little oversight on environmental factors, and no regard for global warming. Though the application included all the legal requirements, it was turned down since the applicants made it clear no extraction plans would take place. Oil and gas companies buy leases on speculation; they don’t drill right away and also wait until the market is in their favor. At the moment there are “20 million acres of public land under lease that isn’t being developed for oil and gas.” But you don’t see BLM taking away this land from its renters. There is a clear bias BLM has for the industry, and it’s scary, knowing these public lands are being leased to the fossil fuel industry, and even if not all are used for extraction, they still remain in their hands.