In March, Donald Trump assembled a group of coal miners to serve as the backdrop to his signing of new executive orders on the environment.
These directives allow coal mining to take place on federal lands, and in general prioritize jobs and “energy independence” over environmental considerations.
Even though Trump hasn’t formally signed the United States out of the Paris Accord on climate change – he promises to make a decision next month – the executive orders will, if successfully implemented, make it very difficult for the United States to meet its commitments under the agreement.
Ecosystems can be quite resilient. They can maintain or regain equilibrium in the case of disruptive events, such as the extinction of a species. It all depends on how critical that species was in the complex interdependency within the ecosystem.
Ecosystems can also adjust to the introduction of invasive species. Honeybees were reintroduced into the United States in the 17th century, and the ecosystem not only adjusted to the newcomers but became dependent on them in a positive way.
On the whole, however, invasive species are bad news, as Nature explains:
Invasive species have contributed directly to the decline of 42 percent of the threatened and endangered species in the United States. The annual cost to the United States economy is estimated at $120 billion a year, with over 100 million acres (an area roughly the size of California) suffering from invasive plant infestations.
A new theory of Easter Island’s collapse, for instance, puts the blame on rats that stowed away on incoming canoes and ate through much of the island’s palm trees.
It’s been common to talk of Donald Trump as an outsider. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call him an invasive species. He is non-native to Washington, DC. He is a super-predator introduced into the international community. His supporters think of him as the Great Pollinator, an example of a positive invasive like the honeybee whose transactional politics will make America bloom again.
But the odds of that are next to nothing. In reality, Donald Trump is kudzu. He is out to strangle anything and everything in his path.
If the global ecosystem were in good shape, it could deal with an invasive species like Donald Trump. But the ecosystem has been compromised by any number of factors. The global economy remains addicted to fossil fuels and over-consumption more generally. We’ve seen massive species die-offs. And the human population has yet to plateau.
The bottom line: We’re not getting green enough, fast enough, to made a big enough difference on the seemingly inexorable increase in global temperatures. By 2016, the world desperately needed a game changer who could drain the swamp of Big Energy. Instead, it got a reverse game changer.
Trump will be a problem more for what he doesn’t do than what he does do. There will be significant opportunity costs connected with his failure to continue – much less improve upon – Obama-era initiatives. Those who anticipate that judicial and legislative institutions will block much of what Trump wants to do might be right.
But as Jeremy Brecher writes in his critically important new book, Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual, it’s too late for politics as usual. It will take nothing less than “mass, global, nonviolent action to challenge the legitimacy of the public officials in the US and elsewhere who are perpetrating climate destruction.”
That movement needs to begin here in the United States in stopping the kudzu known as Donald Trump – before he spreads out of control.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Invasive Species: Trump vs. the Ecosystem’.