By Jim Miller
They say that budgets are moral documents, and if that is the case, then the Trump administration just released the most immoral budget in the history of the United States.
While there are many things to condemn in Trump’s depraved plan, starting with the way it pays for a completely unnecessary, massive increase in funding for the military industrial complex by eviscerating programs that help the poor, fund education, and maintain the social fabric of the country, there is still something worse than all that contained within it.
Worse than the assault on the vulnerable and the callous disregard for culture is how the Trump budget zeroes in on killing the planet. On the same day we discovered that the administration is proposing the largest cuts of all for the Environmental Protection Agency (Mike Mulvaney, the president’s chief salesman for this disaster, called programs that address climate change “a waste of your money” and Trump went to Detroit to announce his intent to roll back fuel-efficiency standards, we learned that large portions of the Great Barrier Reef are now dead.
As the New York Times reported:
Huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef, stretching across hundreds of miles of its most pristine northern sector, were recently found to be dead, killed last year by overheated seawater. More southerly sections around the middle of the reef that barely escaped then are bleaching now, a potential precursor to another die-off that could rob some of the reef’s most visited areas of color and life.
“We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years,” said Terry P. Hughes, director of a government-funded center for coral reef studies at James Cook University in Australia and the lead author of a paper on the reef that is being published Thursday as the cover article of the journal Nature. “In the north, I saw hundreds of reefs — literally two-thirds of the reefs were dying and are now dead.”
The damage to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s largest living structures, is part of a global calamity that has been unfolding intermittently for nearly two decades and seems to be intensifying. In the paper, dozens of scientists described the recent disaster as the third worldwide mass bleaching of coral reefs since 1998, but by far the most widespread and damaging.
The state of coral reefs is a telling sign of the health of the seas. Their distress and death are yet another marker of the ravages of global climate change.
If most of the world’s coral reefs die, as scientists fear is increasingly likely, some of the richest and most colorful life in the ocean could be lost, along with huge sums from reef tourism. In poorer countries, lives are at stake: Hundreds of millions of people get their protein primarily from reef fish, and the loss of that food supply could become a humanitarian crisis.
What is most disturbing about this news is the fact that scientists were surprised by the speed of the devastation. As with their colleagues in the arctic stunned by the rapid rate of melting ice there, those studying the world’s great reefs are seeing the climate change clock move faster than anticipated, making the need for global action to address the crisis all the more urgent.
In the face of a threat that can undermine the food supply of millions of people and ultimately start to unravel the earth’s ecosystems, the arrogant, knuckle-dragging ignorance we are seeing in the White House is not just a political debacle, it is a deep moral failure. By aggressively moving toward policy that will intensify climate change, the Trump administration is murdering the future and sabotaging our best chance to create millions of good green jobs.
And the fact that this story made the New York Times but was largely absent from the rest of the news cycle last week, speaks to a similar moral failure on the part of the media to aggressively forefront the one political disaster that we won’t be able to recover from. Bad social and economic policy, however damaging, can be reversed, but physics doesn’t care about the midterm elections or whether the Russians or Trump’s tax returns are a sexier story than dead reefs.
This is the most important story there is: the choices we are making now are killing our children’s hopes for a livable planet.
This week at the San Diego City College Social Justice Conference:
Climate Change and Climate Justice: Session D at the Third Annual Social Justice and Education Conference!
Wednesday, March 22nd from 11:10-12:35 in MS 140
The American Federation of Teachers Local 1931 is proud to support and participate in the Third Annual Social Justice and Education Conference at City College. For those of you who are interested in discussions of climate change and climate justice, please note this panel chaired by AFT VP and Chair of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council’s Environmental Caucus, Jim Miller, and featuring three key organizations on the frontlines.
One of the New York Times “Top 10 Californians of the Year,” Nicole Capretz is an environmental attorney who authored the City of San Diego’s groundbreaking Climate Action Plan and is now the Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Climate Action Campaign.
Rebecca Rojas is a climate justice and social justice activist and a volunteer with SD350 and other organizations. At her day job, she practices maritime and personal injury law at a small law firm that represents seaman who are injured onboard fishing vessels.
Carolina Martinez is a Senior Planner and Policy Advocate at the Environmental Health Coalition and is responsible for supporting residents in this low-income majority Latino community advocate for Climate Justice and land use policies that respect their priorities, improve health, and are consistent with environmental justice principles.
For more on the City College Social Justice Conference: https://www.socialjusticeandeducationconferencesdcc.org/