Is Trump the best thing to happen to the Environmental Movement since the 1970s?

April 22, 1970. 20 million American citizens take to the streets, parks, public buildings and anywhere else that will house them to publicly demonstrate their contempt for their governments current environmental policy, to educate the layman as to how they improve the environment and most important to inspire change from all aspects of American culture – from the average citizen to the President of the United States of America.


Not surprisingly, it worked! The first Earth day was the catalyst that put Nixon’s government in motion to pass a variety of environmental legislation, in what can only be described as one of the most monumental and controversial acts of Government in the history of the USA. It led to the birth of the EPA, the Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, The Endangered Species act,  the establishment of notable NGOS such as Greenpeace and Earth first. It inspired many generations to come interested and passionate about the environment and the quality of our future. It was a revolution of ideas and opened the eyes of many to the damage we were doing to the Environment.


The result of this was new legislation, new data and a much better idea as to where our planet is going and how to prevent our environment from imploding. Fifty years ago people were optimistic that we could change and would change in order to stop this ideological beast we call “climate change”


The reality is that none of this has translated into any form of effective Environmental Governance. We have seen a massive increase in the amount of data is available on Climate Change in the last 50 years, but we have concurrently witnessed climate change worsening in this time. C02 and other harmful gases associated with human activity have increased in our atmosphere, a hole in the Ozone layer the size of North America has opened up, species extinction events have skyrocketed to 10x the natural rate, ocean solidification is increasing and the quality of our freshwater is decreasing. Research from all forms of natural science is screaming the message of our impact on the environment. The difference is, nobody seems to care anymore.


Residents of Sanjay Colony, a residential neighbourhood, crowd around a water tanker provided by the state-run Delhi Jal (water) Board to fill their containers in New Delhi June 30, 2009. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has given directives to tackle the burgeoning water crisis caused by uneven distribution of water in the city according to local media. The board is responsible for supplying water in the capital. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY)

Residents of Sanjay Colony, a residential neighbourhood, crowd around a water tanker provided by the state-run Delhi Jal (water) Board to fill their containers in New Delhi June 30, 2009. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has given directives to tackle the burgeoning water crisis caused by uneven distribution of water in the city according to local media. The board is responsible for supplying water in the capital. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY)

The wildfire that fueled environmental reform 50 years has died back to little more than an ember. The ideological beast we call “climate change” is now little more than that, an ideology. It is a belief that is not universally believed nor is it universally considered a threat by little more than those who study it or those who are deeply tuned in to the scientific literature.


In the developed world we here of legislation such as the Kyoto Agreement and the Paris Agreement and we trust that the government is doing all it can to mitigate the impending doom of climate change. Governments talk about reducing emissions in the public forum, but make plans for industrial growth in cabinet meetings. Ireland for example, have one of the worst emissions problems in Europe according to the EPA, yet we are planning to grow our docklands and technology departments by astronomical degrees in the forthcoming years. Both of which have massive energy demands and associated climate impacts.


This is a common trend in Europe. We trust our politicians are taking care of this issue, and we go about our day to day activities, fueling the rate at which climate change occurs by buying a new Iphone, driving a motor car or even something as mundane as sending a text message. All of our daily activities within growing economies are environmental catastrophes.


                                                                                                                                                      And then there is Trump.



It does not need to be said that Donald Trump has thrown away the as to what a modern day politician is. From his Twitter feed to his legislation he is a controversial character no doubt. That is exactly what we need.


Trump has scrapped Obama’s ban on the use of coal in industry. He has ejected the USA from the Paris Agreement. He has put a climate change denier at the head of the EPA. Trump has sought to remove the Clean Power Plan, Trump has opened up large tracts of the Gulf of Mexico for bids which he intends to sell for the drilling for oil and natural gas. Most importantly, Trump has relit the fire of concern regarding modern Climate Change, perhaps at a time when we need it most.


Local Governments have pledged their cities to the Paris Agreement and increased Environmental awareness within their jurisdiction. In Seattle last year, thousands took to the streets in protest to Trump’s ideas on this problem. Climate stories associated with the Trump regime make headlines, this has far more of an impact on this important movement than any multitude of studies or data which never seen by the public. It should be noted that Trump will not solve the climate change, in fact he probably will do everything in his power to worsen it, but he may make us change the way we think about it. 


It can certainly be argued that Trumps incendiary approach to the environment will inspire more public awareness, education and interest in how we can reduce the impacts of global climate change. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Trump’s approach, while destructive, will inspire more change than the farcical charades global government is partaking in at the moment. The front they put up only numbs the public to the reality, Trump exposes the ugly truth and he does so shamelessly.


Through Trump the lay person may find themselves re-evaluating their contribution to the environment and becoming more educated on the problem at hand.  In Mike Hulmes book entitled “why do we disagree about Climate Change” lies a philosophy which is far more approachable in how we should deal with this problem.


Hulme argues that climate change is not a traditional problem and it does not have an answer. It is a universal phenomenon that has seeped into our popular culture, politics and environment. Hulme offers an interesting perspective. Seeing the issue of climate change almost as a foil. Similar to Banquo does to MacBeth, the changing climate forces the human population to examine the ugly consequences of our lust for endless growth. The starkness of changing climate and the bleak predictions for our future on this planet have created, much like a shakespearean play, heroes and villains in this story that seems destined to end in tragedy.


Hulme outlines the scope of this tragedy with the help of scientific backing when he references the scientific consensus that is not universally believed. The physical evidence of change coupled with IPCC models of future change should be the catalyst that begins are reduction of impact on this planet. Hulme chooses not to stand on a pedestal and quote science, instead he presents climate change as an ideology to be debated but also acknowledges the importance of the physical episodes which can be monitored and studied. He acknowledges the power of science in uncovering climate changes causes and mysteries, but draws attention to the lack of change in behaviour and policy the data has inspired.


“In the 12 years since the Kyoto Protocol was signed, global emissions of greenhouse

gases have accelerated rather than reduced”


What I find fascinating about this outlook is that Hulme’s sentiment on climate change is not as a terrifying imminent apocalypse but as an opportunity for renaissance. He expresses the difficulty in reaching consensus due to the the various different ethnicities, cultures, politics and ideologies. The “problem” requires the incorporation of spiritual, ethical, and political beliefs to reveal the creative nature of human beings and approach this problem in a way which revolves around personal identity in our world. Only through adding a human element to projects can solutions be reached.


“The idea of climate change can stimulate new thinking about energy and transport

technologies. It can inspire new artistic creations in visual, written and dramatised media”


Hulme believes that climate change could bring out the best of human ingenuity and bring about a modern way of thinking, both in the profane and spiritually. He believes that this is key to approaching this conundrum. The alternative is an authoritarian approach to the problem with governments “waging war” on the changing climate. He does suggest that we may find a more ethical endpoint to authoritarian rule than Stalinist regimes of the past. He even hints at its possible necessity when he poses the question


“What sanction does the UK Climate Change Committee have when the government misses its 2018-2022 emissions target?”


Hulme debates that true human values, compassion and an innate desire for justice will go much further than an authoritarian regime in progressing towards a greener future. He believes that data will not solve climate change but will inspire new creations, new stories and new emotions in society. As the climate changes, so to does human culture and our attitude to this problem. He concludes with the important statement that humans must recognise that climate change is not simply a physical phenomena, it is a part of the fluid and imaginative condition that defines the human existence.

If Trump is what it takes to kickstart the environmental renaissance necessary to overcome this pivotal point in human history then perhaps he is the most important anti-hero the human race has ever had in our deeply flawed and complex history.


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Kilian Murphy

Kilian Murphy

Kilian Murphy is a final year Environmental Science student in Trinity College Dublin, set to graduate in May 2018. He is currently working for the Irish Wildlife Trust conducting ecological fieldwork to develop a management plan for a regenerating woodland and wetland ecosystem. Kilian hopes to complete a PhD in the near future. His main interest lies with the behaviour, evolution and ecology of large predators, especially wolves. He is also interested in how land use affects biodiversity and ecosystem functionality. Kilian is looking to expand his skills in conservation and ecological research and would welcome any position that would help him achieve this. Email: Twitter: Blog:

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