As promised, Trump and his administration have done away with the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule in the name of saving coal mining jobs. The regulation was previously enacted to maintain forests and water tables near mining locations. The costly nature of environmental regulation reduces mining profit margins, forcing mining sites that operate at a low profit margin to close down. On the other hand, public health and water cleanliness are at stake.
Obama’s administration spent a great deal of time putting the law together and barely pushed it through in December before Trump took over. Highly controversial, the Stream Protection Rule prioritized climate change concerns and public health over the economic viability of mining operations. While climate change opponents and advocates of fossil fuels lobbied against the rule, citing the potential loss of up to 70,000 jobs, other sources dismiss those numbers and estimate only a loss of 124 full-time jobs in the coal sector. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis goes as far as predicting job growth through an estimated annual increase in 280 full-time jobs related to regulating and enforcing the Stream Protection Rule. Some critics of Trump’s move to eliminate the rule suggest addressing coal miners’ health, safety, and benefits on the job as well as taking fishermen and the outdoor industry into consideration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warns of community damage especially in Appalachian regions that could result from overregulation while Senator Maria Cantwell believes, “You can protect the coal industry here with special interests and the amount of lobbying they do, or you can step up in a process and have regulation that works for the United States of America”.
My previous discussion on the Trump administration’s efforts to end the EPA still applies to this discussion on removing the Stream Protection Rule in that “the problem with this move, along with most of Trump’s policy moves, is that they are removing safeguards that have been put in place to afford average citizens environmental, financial, social, and health equality (among many others)”. Any move that insists on holding tightly onto fossil fuel jobs regardless of environmental impact surveys and statistics is a hindrance to American economic and social progress. One can not tout the salvage of a couple hundred jobs at the long-term expense of water quality that every citizen is entitled to. At any rate, research has consistently proven the job-creating prowess of the sustainability sector but these findings don’t seem to have a place in the job count conversation. Is this testament to a trillion-dollar industry’s concern for their pensionless, health problem-ridden miners, or to an agenda for widened profit margins via stagnation of American industries?
The game Trump plays with environmental deregulation benefits from the indirect and future harm that draws fewer passionate protestors than policy moves do on issues like abortion, health care, and minimum wage. The art of creating an indifferent public is making a new policy seem as though it affects “someone else, but not me”. Historically, the conversation on climate change has suffered from a result of the intangibility of losing clean air and water twenty years from now. Regardless, this decision to remove the Stream Protection Act, along with other safeguards put in place by climate change seers and believers, impacts every individual from the family living downstream of American Appalachian coal mines to Thai paddy farmers whose rice crops didn’t survive this year’s flooding (compliments of, you guessed it, climate change).
The larger social justice theme underlying Trump’s ability to slash environmental regulation left and right is that the public often focuses on battling personal financial and social struggles built into society’s institutions while those at the top with status and power have all the time and money in the world to build and shape institutions as they see fit. It does not take much work from the dominant culture to maintain a marginalized community with little solidarity. We could point fingers at media literacy, our education system, or our lobbying structure for feeding the loop of unbalanced voices but I’ll stop here with a request that Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike reexamine what actually comes inside the packages they fight for named Job Creation, Job Security, and Economic Growth.
Henry, D. (2017, February 16). Trump signs bill undoing Obama coal mining rule. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/319938-trump-signs-bill-undoing-obama-coal-mining-rule
Kuykendall, T. (2017, February 13). Little coal industry relief seen in reversal of Stream Protection Rule. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from http://ieefa.org/little-coal-industry-relief-seen-reversal-stream-protection-rule/
Hint: it's a spectrum
It sometimes feels like the theoretical optimism of social justice research organizes information nicely in my head but does very little to equip me against war-waging privilege-holders who think that the next generations and the mass media are out to get them.
Reading Peggy McIntosh’s timeless piece “White Privilege & Male Privilege: A personal account of coming to see correspondences through work in women’s studies” excited me when I considered the potential of a conversational approach that addresses the two sides of the coin, disadvantage and privilege.
McIntosh insightfully divided the male perspective of their own privilege into stages that belong on a spectrum from complete denial of male privilege, to admitting women’s disadvantage, to acknowledging male privilege and actually acting against it. In the past when I’ve broached the subject with others, it often dissolved into fruitless debate despite attempts to access them through logic. Looking at McIntosh’s spectrum, I see that perhaps I was using logic that only applied to my personal reality. Speaking to a white male about his privilege is difficult because he could be anywhere on the spectrum and one’s reality (and the accompanying logic) changes accordingly.
Besides applying male privilege perspectives to a spectrum, McIntosh made an appeal to develop a system to categorize privileges and to distinguish those which everyone deserves from those which permit ignorance. Uniquely, the inequality dialogue boiled down not to finger-pointing, but to perspective-taking and solution-finding. Organizing any abstracted issue enables us to have the conversation in the first place because if we can identify and then label social concepts, we have terms to use in the conversation that hold similar meanings to both parties. Without this system right now, conversations with people of different perspectives amount to nitpicking words instead of breaking down each other’s arguments.
While structuring perspectives and privileges will set up a framework for future conversations on these touchy social issues, there will still be individuals collectively holding onto their norms, traditions, and unacknowledged privileges. If they don’t want exposure to progressive ideas, research, or the individuals who embody them, it’s hard to have the conversation constructively. Accidental exposure does a lot of good but doesn’t usually have the depth required to develop an empathy that translates into action and change.
My two conclusions as I wrapped up this reading? First, that we better get to work developing a patience that can handle this “one step forward, two steps back” pace of social justice, and secondly that perhaps we can learn to see interactions with others as prime opportunities to learn to articulate our realities to the dominant culture.
McIntosh, P. (1988). White privilege and male privilege: a personal account of coming to see correspondences though work in women’s studies. Creation Spirituality, 33-35
An overview of H.R.861
In an effort to further accommodate fossil fuel and corporate interests, H.R.861 - To Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency was submitted by Republican Matt Gaetz in Florida along with Republicans from Kentucky, Mississippi, and Georgia to remove the Environmental Protection Agency and move its responsibilities to the state level. On February 3rd it was referred to the House’s committee on Science, Space, and Technology, along with a whopping four other committees for review. It has a long way to go before becoming a policy but many are still shocked at the idea of laws that remove the accountability of the wealthy and their corporations.
This proposed bill comes in the wake of a presidential administration that denies climate change, cut corners to approve an anti-environmental attorney general as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and is strategizing an exit from the Paris climate agreement. Much of Trump’s administration has ties with the fossil fuel industry. Myron Ebell, a member of one of Trump’s transition teams who calls himself the “number one enemy of climate change alarmism” reasoned that the government is obligated to take down climate change info because most of “what the EPA puts out in the way of so-called ‘climate education’ – some of the research that they’ve not necessarily done but promoted—does not meet the minimal standards legally required by the federal information quality act” (Neslen, 2017). This kind of reasoning spans across all of their efforts to subdue dialogue on climate change.
Most of Trump’s policy moves are closely monitored by the media, not the least by environmental watchdogs. While a lot of the coverage is light-hearted ridicule, there are plenty of major outlets raising genuine concern over America’s sustainability in these next four years and framing the issue to reach maximum audiences. Despite still being in its infancy, this particular bill has received an inordinate amount of attention.
The problem with this move, along with most of Trump’s policy moves, is that they are removing safeguards that have been put in place to afford average citizens environmental, financial, social, and health equality (among many others). To remove the EPA is to permit corporate interests to profit at any environmental expense of the public. Whether or not one believes in climate change, an oil leak into a water table that serves as your community’s water source is detrimental to your health and pervades other parts of your life. The Environmental Protection Agency ensures quality of air, land, and water to climate change believers and nonbelievers alike.
As any corporate-interest policy tends to do, H.R.861 will most impact the lowest-income regions that are already burdened with housing the nation’s most environmentally damaging businesses. Richer communities have the voice and leverage to keep factory-like businesses out of their areas. Low-income populations have neither the leverage or the solidarity to object. Removing EPA protection is basically permitting these businesses to discard safety measures where they are already producing dangerous materials, dealing with toxins, and tainting the region’s air quality.
(Hope you're in it for the long run)
In this information-savvy age, handing someone an inconvenient truth is not enough in and of itself. The inconvenience outweighs the truth and so people continue to buy unethically sourced products, do their business with corporate tax evaders, maintain the same diet, and throw all their garbage in the same bin. The list goes on, accompanied with half-brewed excuses, 'what, me?' shrugs, and cherry-picked statistics that float their "The World's Not Actually Ending" boat.
For the mp4 of this speech, contact me at LiannShannon@gmail.com
Yesterday's Occasion speech by Dr. Sherri Benn of Texas State University
"Walk your talk. In you has been the kind of revelation that has captivated students, staff, and faculty alike because of our collective and insatiable hunger to make our dream of revolutionary transformation into a collective reality of inspiration for the purposes of pressing towards the mark of liberation because like Sister Angela Davis said, 'Freedom is a constant struggle and revolution starts in your hearts.'" See, the stronger-together folk we squandered because we really were not with her. I guess it has finally woke us up to the indisputable fact that the liberation of one of us is inextricably connected to the unshackling of all of us, whether we are the oppressed or the oppressor and believe you me, we are both.
Social work themes at play in the music industry
No matter what field you work in, there is music relevant to your personal growth and career path. Music has the potential to unite our emotional, spiritual, and social well-being when we act as conscious consumers of the industry. For my Hip Hop & Social Justice class, my class recently looked into the songs that empower each of us the most. The three songs I chose are “Old Pine” by Ben Howard, “The Fear” by Ben Howard, and “Believers” by Handsome Ghost.
Revelations from today's initiation
Today I became a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, an organization that binds lovers of wisdom to a common purpose and calls on them to rule their lives with the love of learning. Dr. Michael Hennessy, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Texas State University, delivered the keynote speech at the afternoon initiation ceremony for the university’s chapter. I left the event thoroughly empowered and newly aware of how close I am to the next stage of my life, especially thanks to the ending of Dr. Hennessy’s speech.
As an undergrad journalist, my beat was Community Development. I was living in America’s fastest growing city so change was rampant in local culture, economy, infrastructure, environment, and student-resident relations. I reported on maintaining cultural roots, city services addressing local income disparities, local politics, sustainable handling of the local river, and how the student population at my university could engage with these issues. It was my most valuable learning experience to date, not only because of what San Marcos leaders, civilians, and organizations taught me but because I was exposed to the relationship between news media and activism. I started the job thinking that informing the public was the beginning and end in activism. It was eye-opening to see the way advertisers shaped publication content and how little the community actually engaged with content on larger social issues. Activism is about engaging the public but it is an art that goes beyond handing out the truth. Working as a video-journalist confirmed my desire to work closely with the community but taught me that my effectiveness in the micro sense (local development) would always be limited until I further explored larger development themes in activism.