WRITTEN FOR HUFFPOST. SEE PUBLISHED ARTICLE HERE.
I have one thing to say to you, Donald Trump – you are a manipulative, bigoted and pathetic man. How, when it has been tried and tested that environmental sustainability accelerates economic growth can you claim the opposite? What is it about you that is so present-orientated, so short-sighted, so ignorant? The answers are clear, and it is not like we are all surprised at this. I have resisted until now the urge to spill out my seething anger with your clique of White, suited, wealthy men that now govern the United States, but this is the final straw. As a member of the Green Party and a passionate environmentalist, I cannot stay quiet any longer.
The announcement that the newly ‘elected’ (remember Russia? Most in the media have forgotten) White House is backtracking on Obama’s generational commitment to clean power was only to be expected, but it is no less scandalous. Obama’s clean power plan is set to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions by 32% below 2005 levels, and currently prevents more than 1.8bn tons of coal from some 24 mines, which if allowed to be burned would emit the carbon dioxide emissions equal to 700m cars, it is estimated. But despite its significance this is one environmental policy among many now under threat. Trump’s executive order also covers significant amounts of fracking regulation, the 2013 climate action plan, Obama’s 2015 rule requiring permits for any actions that may pollute major water sources, and the very existence of the Environmental Protection Agency, from which he outrageously announced yesterday’s executive order.
But we must not get carried away with glorifying Obama, for his record is by no means flawless. Although a Democrat, he like his predecessors since Ronald Reagan could not resist the urge of neoliberalism (based around free market capitalism) to undemocratically and unaccountably corrupt the globe. Indeed, a collaborative investigation between Columbia University and The Guardian found that during Obama’s two terms in office the US Export Import Bank – closely linked with the treasury – financed $34bn of fossil fuel coal plants, pipelines and refineries across the globe from Columbia to Australia. Nonetheless, Obama’s record was a marked improvement on his predecessors, such as his proposal of new fuel economy regulations for trucks and cars, set to reduce carbon emissions by 1.1bn tons. Perhaps most progressively, the Obama administration also showed the leadership on the global stage that was a long time coming for the world’s largest economy (albeit soon to be overtaken by China). This was apparent by Obama’s investment of $3bn into the Green Climate Fund, supporting environmentally clean economic growth in ‘developing’ countries, and of course the USA’s landmark commitment to the Kyoto Protocol at the Paris Agreement, ratified last year.
That every one of these measures is now under threat thanks to the deluded Trumpian drive towards some fantastical economic dream represents the worst face of predatory capitalism. Most in the media are too scared to say the word (apparently it’s too extreme), but lets call this out for what it is: predatory, uncompromising, dark capitalism. Since the abominable economic overhaul led by Thatcher and Reagan throughout the 1980s, the US, Europe and increasingly many new industrial powerhouses in Eastern Asia and Southern America have relied upon the neoliberal myth that the free market, deregulation, privatisation, and corporatisation are the only means for economic growth. Just look at the level of inequality across these continents, and between these countries and underdeveloped countries, maintained as poor and inefficient by the self-seeking neoliberal model, to see how far it has got us.
The Trumpian economic model is a variation of this, for his protectionism is somewhat unique. In many ways, this is worse as the Trump team are using a nationalist vision for US economic growth and US economic growth only as their justification for destroying the planet. But this vision is deeply flawed. A White House that really acts in the interests of American people would be leading the global effort for protecting this planet, its natural beauty, its species, and its natural resources for future generations to enjoy. Rather, we have a Trump administration that lies through its teeth that it is “bringing back our jobs, bringing back our dreams and making America wealthy again.” That Trump was surrounded by coalminers as he made yesterday’s announcement says it all. The White House proclaims that this is “put[ting] our coalminers back to work”. Get real.
Let’s be clear: this is not about workers. Wonder why businesses are ‘flooding back’, as Trump would say, to the US? Wonder why there is such a focus on coal? The corporates at the helm of these monstrous trans-national corporations are in Trump’s pocket. Indeed, this predatory capitalism has infected the very heart of the White House; many of the patriarchs in Trump’s cabinet are classic revolving door capitalists. As Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse (ironic!) puts it, “The most voracious and malign special interest in American politics – the fossil fuel industry – has captured the Trump administration” and is fighting anything and everything “that gets in the way of its profits.” This assault on environmental protection is part of a wider picture: taxes for wealthy individuals and businesses are plummeting; crucial regulations built over many years to protect the global economy and environment are being hacked away with bloodthirsty viciousness; workers’ rights are being decimated with alarming speed; inequality is becoming more profound (I wonder why…). Trump and his wealthy friends are ruling America, they’re ruling the world, and it is ordinary people globally that will suffer, for generations.
I joined the Green Party a fortnight ago because I care about our planet (and the Labour Party has become painfully ineffective opposition, but that’s for another time). A world-leading economy must be green and sustainable to survive. As economist Laurence Tubiana of the European Climate Foundation rightly put it yesterday, if it passes through the courts, this executive order “will hurt the vast majority of Americans as it will propel the economy backwards so it resembles something from the 19th century.” The regression is remarkable. The bigotry emanating from the White House is not something to banter about over pints or coffee. No, this is something civil society should absolutely be protesting against. As I have said, these measures will have an impact far beyond the shores of the states, and as a Briton, I fear that Theresa May’s substanceless, shambolic government will join the club. After all, we have the disgrace that is Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary. This fear is legitimised if one looks at how far we have trodden down the fateful path of neoliberalism so far. We must not accept this.
The beast of capitalism has slid under most noses for too long, but now it is exhibited within the White House for all to see. Trump and his team are not ‘maniacs’, the world has not ‘gone mad’. No these people know exactly what they are doing, and they love such escapist labels. It is precisely us, civil society, that must stop them in their tracks with this loud and clear message: you may have ruled the world until now, but no longer.