Countering Trump’s Assaults on the Natural World: a Word of Advice to Biden

Photograph Source: mouli choudari – CC BY 2.0

Congratulations Mr. President-Elect. I am delighted the American people voted for you in the midst of a Trump and Republican Party onslaught on the integrity of elections and American democracy.

Trump’s attack on nature 

Trump and his followers have damaged the country at home and abroad. It will take enormous time and talent from your administration to reverse this decline.

Trump denied climate change, thus he diminished the international standing of America. Indirectly, by encouraging oligarchy and the rejection of science, he influenced the leader of Brazil who encouraged the burning of the Amazon and its  conversion to soybean fields.

Trump and his EPA nearly wiped out domestic environmental and public health protection. This dangerous and immoral policy empowered polluters to inflict even more damage to the natural world and public health. The coronavirus plague is one of the unexpected consequences of abusing nature.

Reform or abolish animal farms

Animal farms are applied abuse on a massive scale. You cannot keep 9 billion domesticated animals in filthy and sardine-like enclosures without disease and pathogens with the potential of triggering pandemics.

The animal farm example and its deadly effects is not that unusual, which I hope it will motivate you to reform animal farms or abolish them. Farmers used to raise food animals for millennia without spreading diseases.

For my part, I don’t eat meat, but those who insist they have to have meat, let me say times demand they reconsider their diet.

Now we are surrounded by the gigantic monster of climate change, threatening our lives and our future, including the life and future of the Earth. Eating meat is feeding the fires of climate change. Animal farms and industrialized agriculture are responsible for about a third to a half of America’s greenhouse gas emissions. In this context, is it worth eating steaks and hamburgers?

Can agriculture be made ecological and democratic?

Mr. President-Elect:

All of US agriculture is in deep trouble that would require radical surgery for making it sustainable and democratic.

Farm chemical pesticides, for example, have no place in responsible family farming and a healthy natural world that makes agriculture possible. Chemical warfare, greed, and uninterrupted corruption brought those awful poisons into farming. You must order the US Environmental Protection Agency to ban them without delay.

A few millions of small farms (about 160 acres in size) should be capable of feeding the nation. They don’t need neurotoxins and carcinogens to grow food. They would do best with the assistance of an Extension Service educated in agroecological science.

In this process of reforming farming, you would need to evok antitrust laws to break up very large agribusiness into sustainable farms that will no longer hurt rural America and the environment.

Second, it would help if your administration ceases all subsidies to agribusiness (about $ 22 billion in 2019). Use that money to buy up land for small-scale family farmers and upgrade the mission and agroecological education of the land grant universities and the Extension Service. These national institutions must serve only small family farmers and protect the integrity of the natural world, especially the endangered and threatened species, biodiversity, and clean waters.

Role of the EPA

These proposals and potential reforms would need a healthy and powerful EPA protected from Congressional and industry interference and influence.

Trump nearly destroyed the federal government, making it a subsidiary to polluters and large business.

The EPA administrator must be a person of integrity and knowledge, without any connections to polluters and the industry. In fact, polluters and industry should be forbidden from lobbying EPA. The EPA administrator must have your confidence and trust, including be a member of your cabinet. The rest of the cabinet officials must know that EPA will have the final say on any decisions they make affecting public health and the health of the natural world.

A restored EPA will be critical in addressing climate change. You cannot simply talk about climate change. You need to act boldly — and fast.

Wrestling with oil

During the first day of your administration cancel all subsidies to the fossil fuels industry and order the Departments of Agriculture and Interior to ban any and all fracking or oil, coal, and gas extractions in federal lands.

Order the Department of Defense to include climate change as its most significant national security priority. This means internal reforms to meet the challenge of decarbonizing its machines and strategies. The Department should also start funding on an emergency basis research and development of energy technologies with zero carbon and ecological effects.

Invite the executives of fossil fuel companies to the White House and tell them that by 2030 there would be no more fossil fuel extraction and burning. They have one choice: get out of business or convert their technologies and talent to the discovery and application of ecological or zero carbon technologies for the production of electricity, the fueling of cars, airplanes, and trains.

Ask the Federal Reserve to give you enough money to buy all gasoline and diesel cars and trucks in the United States. These cars and trucks could be recycled for metal or converted to electric vehicles. Americans with annual income of more than $ 200,000 should pay for the recycling or modification of their cars and trucks. This as well as other reforms should be over by 2030.

Simultaneously, a massive public infrastructure works project could supply the country with first-rate public transportation with electric trams, busses, and trains, including bullet trains connecting all major cities of the country.

Inspiration from Roosevelt’s New Deal

Is this proposed change too much? I don’t think so. Trump proved how easy it is for a president and a party to dismantle or impoverish the country. Your task will be to build this country to the level of civilization it deserves.

Follow the footsteps of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Revive the institutions he built for the reorganization of agriculture and rural America. Roosevelt was facing a dire depression and war. You are facing the life and death threat and reality of climate change, a predicament for all Americans and the world. Don’t allow class divisions, inequalities, and racism divert your attention from climate change.

Talk to the billionaire class. They either ask you to tax them or find a way to tax most of their immense wealth for the good of the country and the survival of planet Earth.

Evaggelos Vallianatos is a historian and environmental strategist, who worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency for 25 years. He is the author of seven books, including the latest book, The Antikythera Mechanism.