Opinion: Trump, Earth Day, and doing your part

Destiny Norris

Staff Writer

If you’ve seen “The Simpson’s Movie,” you might have some funny ideas about what protecting planet Earth looks like, and what the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, is for. However, you have also witnessed (albeit from a fictional and comical point of view) the need to care for our environment.

As the world watches, America’s 45th president is beginning to make good on some of his campaign promises. However, in order to boost industry and jobs, Donald Trump is taking some controversial action against previously instated environmental regulations. This includes a bill presented to congress that aims to abolish the EPA, as well as lift some federal regulations on how much pollution industries are allowed to produce.

These actions were taken in order to give big business wiggle room to create more jobs for workers in areas like coal mining, but they cause some environmentally aware eyebrows to be raised.

If your eyebrows have gone up, you’re not alone. Heidi Leuszler, a professor at Parkland who teaches environmental biology and sustainability, has confidence that Trump’s actions will cause changes in how businesses handle their resources and that the federal government will not want to hold them accountable for how much waste they’re creating.

“Without a doubt, there will be an impact,” says Leuszler. “Regulations and policy are often the only things
that lessen an impact on the environment. Industry is not isolated to the United States anymore. If the rest of the economically-developed world is still regulating the entire manufacturing process tightly, industries might not do anything differently so they can still import/export products. On the other hand, it might mean that products for export are made with less impact than those made for the USA, or that industry will start polluting and wasting more.”

If that statement is putting a damper on your Earth Day, which is coming up, try not to despair. Thor Peterson, sustainability coordinator at Parkland, echoes Leuszler’s sentiment, but thinks that just maybe, it might be more hopeful than it appears at first glance.

“Although the Trump administration is working hard to diminish regulations and dramatically cut funding to departments that enforce those laws, there still are federal regulations,” Peterson says. “…And large entities with their own regulatory power—again, California, for example—aren’t doing away with their environmental regulations. So, if a manufacturer of paint, for example, wants to sell its product in California, it will have to comply with California’s regulations around air pollutants emitted by paint products. No manufacturer is going to bother creating one formulation of paint to sell in California, and one to sell everywhere else.”

Hopefully, this statement reassures you a bit. I don’t write this to be doom-y and gloom-y; the intent is merely to make you, the reader, aware that the world is changing, and that now more than ever, we as individuals have a role in how that change plays out.

History can give us a glimpse into why doing our part is important.

“The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, as a response by Americans to a series of dramatic examples of environmental degradation, and a growing concern over pollution-related human health impacts,” Peterson says. “Rivers were catching fire from unchecked industrial emissions; smog was becoming an increasing health threat in multiple American cities, and children were getting sick for reasons we couldn’t explain, but people suspected pollution played a role. The first Earth Day was a nationwide protest, bringing together more than 20 million Americans in a show of support for clean air and water and opposition to the continued degradation of the natural systems on which life on Earth depends.”

What a great day.

Since everyone is looking for a cause, why not this one? If something as important as our earth and its resources affects our very beings, our way of life, why don’t we, the common college student, spend a bit more time and effort fighting against the things that harm it?

Maybe it intimidates you; homework, jobs, and family all get in the way. We’re busy college bees, we are. But maybe it isn’t as hard or intimidating as it seems; after all, it’s not your job to solve the whole world’s environmental crisis. However, the choices you make as a consumer can make a big impact by themselves.

“The choices you have made in what you eat, wear, how you get around town, how you communicate… all of this affects how we use the earth, and thus what is left for us to use,” Leuszler says. “Sustainability asks us to use what we need, not waste, and think of alternatives that might be less polluting so that our way of life can be stable into the future.”

If you feel a sudden swell of Earth-dwelling loyalty and are looking for a way to get involved in sustainability, Peterson makes some recommendations.

“Where to begin! If possible, bicycle, carpool or take MTD to school rather than driving individually,” Peterson says. “Buy the least-toxic or nontoxic product alternatives. Think twice about buying stuff, and focus more on having memorable experiences rather than buying things. Bring a reusable bag with you when you shop, and shop for locally-produced products.”

These are just a few ways to make a difference. Also, keep your eyes peeled for Earth Day opportunities. The Champaign-Urbana March for Science is taking place on Earth Day, and all are welcome.

Students in kindergarten through 12th grade will lead the march, but all are welcome. The march will begin at the Orpheum Museum at 5 p.m. on April 22, and the rally and speakers will begin around 6 p.m., or whenever the march arrives back at the museum.

Leuszler, who helped organize the event in tandem with the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, says the easiest way to get involved is just to stand up and get in there.

“I think the easiest thing to do is just see what is going on in the community and go,” Leuszler says. “There are seminars, talks, events, movies, clean-ups, races…learn and participate.”

If we can get it into our heads that every choice we make really, actually matters and makes a difference, we might be on our way to a very different world.