Friday, June 23, 2017

Christian Responce To Trump's Environmental Agenda

Bear's Ears National Monument

So, what is the big deal with Bear's Ears and the withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement? Our Commander and Chief seems to be focused on undoing actions of his immediate predecessor. Whatever his motivation, President Trump is certainly on a mission to reduce governmental influence on environmental conservation. Should Christians be concerned about these actions?

Bear's Ears National Monument was created under the authority of the Antiquities Act in the last weeks of Obama's term in office. The 1906 Antiquities Act gives a president power to designate areas of historical significance as protected sites without Congressional involvement. Trump is the first president in history to even suggest that some of these land designations should be reversed. This presidential privilege has been key in creating some of the most iconic outdoor sites in the United States including Devil's Tower National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, and Teton National Park. In fact, several National Monuments have become National Parks.

These presidential designations have always been opposed to some degree. But the general public has always overwhelmingly been in support of the creation of National Monuments. Bear's Ears is especially divisive for a few reasons. First it was just created. Second it was created by Obama who Trump campaigned to replace. Third it includes a large tract of land totaling 1.35 million acres which is larger than most Monuments.

The Antiquities Act does not provide the President with power to reverse a Monuments designated as such. Thus, Trump has ordered a review to see if the creation of Bear's Ears was 100% in line with the law. His ordered review extends beyond Bear's Ears though and includes Monuments created as far back as 1996. It is ultimately up to Congress to reverse a Monument's status.

So, what is the big deal if Bear's Ears loses it designation? Well, particularly the motivation behind Trump's decision to reverse it. Taken with all his other statements and actions to date, Trump seems to have little concern for the environment and its preservation. This is concerning for Christians who have a Biblical obligation to be good stewards of God's creation (Gen. 1:28). It is also concerning because of why Bear's Ears received Monument status. It was not simply a random tract of land that Obama decided to protect. It was selected because of the efforts of five Native American tribes to have it protected. They campaigned for over six years to achieve the preservation of this beautiful land. It would be yet another line in the long list of ways Native Americans have been disregarded by the United States government over the past few centuries.

There is more at stake with Bear's Ears than simply a status designation. The preservation of our environment for future generations may be threatened if Trump succeeds in undoing all the environmental protections he appears to be after (see his comments on the EPA here). This is a social justice issue. It goes beyond how the government treats Native American’s. Pollution and environmental degradation hurt the poor most no matter their ethnic background. They have the least resources to deal with the fallout.

This is why Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord is also something you should be disappointed by. This will make the USA the only developed country to back out of the agreement. It is disappointing because it seems the motivation is based on money alone. Syria chose not to join the Accord in the first place because it said the measures were not aggressive enough. The pullout would stifle the growth of green energy solutions in the USA. Thankfully, conservation and green energy have taken hold of the general public to a degree that individuals and the Private Sector are taking the initiative to implement these on their own. Whether or not you believe global warming to be caused by humans, there is no doubt that things like smog, water pollution, and mass deforestation are human's doing. And these things along with others will hurt the poor most. (see here)

Trump's actions and their effect on the environment will continue to be debated for years. We should hope that his actions will not be as dire as they initially sound. The bureaucratic process will hopefully result in sound policies toward environmental conservation as well as economic stability. There are many Christian taking part in good stewardship of the environment. You can too. Get involved in a local green intuitive; reduce, reuse, and recycle; make your voice heard in matters of environmental conservation (click here to take action to preserve Bear's Ears). Follow and get involved with Christian environmental organizations like A Rocha; help your church or school to become better stewards of the environment (click here for tips). Most importantly, pray and work for Christ's soon return so that he can make all things new!

Written by David F. Garner