A tree hugger’s lament

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Written by Tyler Anderson, Opinion Editor

The current presidential administration has done little to hide its disdain for environmental concerns. From assigning ex-oil executives to the presidential cabinet to withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, the health of the environment and millions of people have been put in jeopardy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem they will change course anytime soon.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday he would oversee the withdrawal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Established during former President Barack Obama’s administration, it provided guidelines as to exactly how much carbon pollution power plants could emit.

Although controversial, it was the first step towards regulating the industry’s waste. According to reports by the Union of Concerned Scientists, power plants emit up to “40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.” Any reduction of that number would be beneficial.

Also, air pollution hurts people as much as the environment. Those with asthma are particularly vulnerable to pollution, and lung cancer is a threat after long-term exposure to irritants. It should be an easy decision: develop more efficient and ‘cleaner’ energy technologies to adapt to man-made climate change.

Conspiracy theorists, (most) conservative lawmakers and a small, but vocal, sect of the general population have denounced the research supporting such a conclusion as heresy and Un-American.

They are convinced more than 95 percent of environmental scientists are plotting to destroy the free world and capitalism through regulation of pollution. The evidence has been documented and is readily available; some refute the facts on principle alone, others choose to stay ignorant to avoid blame.

But this most recent move is just one among many to undermine decades worth of work dedicated to protecting and preserving the environment. The decision to withdraw from the CPP is done under the guise of reviving the coal industry, long since past its prime, but still a major source of Kentucky’s power. Renewable energies and new environmental technologies are closing the gap, and though coal is cheap, it’s slowly falling out of favor.

Our state has been hit hard by this shift; those in the Appalachian region once relied heavily on coal production, but late-generation miners are living a much different reality than their ancestors. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was a bipartisan effort to improve infrastructure, energy efficiency and health care in the area. It helped, but much like a band aid on a stab wound, it can’t mend the real issue.

President Donald Trump’s administration has worked tirelessly to nullify or amend anything associated with the previous administration. The Paris Climate Accord was touted as being the greatest measure taken by such a large number of countries to combat climate change; the CPP aimed to hold the energy industry accountable for its contribution to pollution. Each would provide endless benefits.

Protecting our natural resources shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Decades of irresponsible stewardship has caused irreversible damage. No amount of money in the pockets of the nation’s wealthiest warrants the issues which have arisen from careless consumption.

Our generation, and those following us, will bear the brunt of climate change. We are often dismissed as self-absorbed and entitled, but our adolescence was the product of endless war and the smart device revolution. We have seen the worst and the best the land of the free has to offer. We understand right and wrong is never black and white.

But now we’re vocal, and we must protest actions which threaten to backtrack on decades of sustainability initiatives.