The New Normal: Petty Actions Accelerate Climate Change, Reshape the Earth

By Ayana Byrd Jan 02, 2018

We made it through 2017! But sometimes, it looked like we wouldn’t survive a year that seemed intent on shaking up the status quo. President Donald Trump wasted no time dismantling the evironmental justice gains of the Obama administration. In this installment of The New Normal, Colorlines contributing editor Ayana Byrd explores how petty, short-term thinking can permanently impact the planet.

A sobering fact: Global warming does not care who wins the midterm elections in 2018. Ice caps won’t stop melting, hurricanes will continue to devastate coastal regions because of a rise in water temperatures and wildfires will continue to burn if the Congressional majority shifts from Republican to Democrat. That is because the wheels have already been set in motion to ensure the planet no longer keeps us safe—and they have accelerated in the months since President Donald Trump moved into the White House.

Post-inauguration, it has been harder to learn particulars about global warming since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed the climate change page from its website on the orders of the newly sworn in Trump. “If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear,” an EPA staffer told Reuters at the time, as various employees of the agency leaked copied data to ProPublica.

Deleting website copy about one of the greatest threats to humankind didn’t feel like politics to many—it felt petty. Also petty: reducing the size of Bears Ears monument by approximately 85 percent to allow for commercial activity to take place on ground that is considered sacred by various Indigenous tribes. Or Trump waiting a total of four days after taking office to sign an executive order allowing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines to be built, in a reversal of decisions made by former President Barack Obama. And in a global screw you, the president withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement, an international plan to combat the threat of climate change that took 21 years to negotiate and now has the support of every other country in the world.

The biggest danger that can come from these moves and how they accelerate climate change is that any environmental new normal—like rising seawaters that erode coastlines and destroy communities where people of color often live—can become the forever reality. And that is why environmentalists, and even mayors and governors, are pushing for another new normal, one in which we permanently change the way we live and do business so that the planet can survive.