President Obama’s Role in Climate Change Battle

by Darby on April 27, 2015 - 11:49pm

I am currently working with Snap Quebec to try and push the government of Canada to create more protected areas. This work made me wonder what other nations were doing to protect the biodiversity and beauty of the world. In my interest, I recently read an article written by Theresa Pierno for The Hill, published on April 27th 2015 entitled “National Parks’ Place in President’s Climate Legacy” found at this link:

It began by recalling one of the early visions of America, from over a century ago; the vision to “permanently protect some of our most incredible natural and historic places so future generations [can] experience them as they were meant to be experienced- in their natural beauty”. To me it seems that America has strayed far from this original vision. When I think of America, I think of large gas-guzzling pick-ups, heavy consumerism and the denial of climate change. Nevertheless, I kept reading.

President Obama spoke earlier this April for National Parks Week and challenged Americans to recommit to this vision. Obama explained that it was important for Americans to tackle climate change and that it is a threat to all national parks. For Earth Day, the President visited the Everglades National Park to highlight that it is necessary to act upon climate change.

National parks are threatened by sea level rise, drought and accompanying wildfires caused in part by air pollution, diminished fresh water systems and more. This threatens the flora and fauna as well as the people who depend on these areas.

Americans do not want their “legacy for national parks [to] be Glacier National Park without glaciers, or Everglades National Park swallowed by rising seas”. 

The president can help preserve parks like the Grand Canyon by stopping commercial developments that further threaten an already crippled area. He can also finalize the California Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan which would at the same time conserve land and wildlife as well as energy zones. The administration can do many things to help climate issues; there is no one cure for the environment.

Air pollution originating from nearby power plants threatens a large proportion of national parks including their environment, their wildlife and their visitors. Companies are currently using loopholes in the EPA’s to continue these harmful practices. The president has the opportunity to remedy the situation by closing these loopholes and helping the EPA.

The Obama administration must help parks maintain their land and water. The areas are important to Americans who are refusing to let climate change threaten the connections they have with these places. Parks are places of refuge, healing and connection; “they remind us who we are as people”.

America needs to take the fight against climate change more seriously otherwise the parks will be lost to future generations.

The situation in America is an excellent example of new power vs old power. The environmental activists, the everyday citizen concerned about the climate, the scientists, the concerned parents, the worried youth, the American people on their own can only make so much of a difference on environmental issues. New power allows for all the small victories in environmental issues. It is the people who gather to clean the river or plant the trees who make the difference, the network of individuals, participating together. They can use re-usable bags, they can reduce their gas consumption, they can eat locally, they can buy energy-efficient electronics but they cannot on their own regulate the industry giants. This is an example of were new power finds itself powerless. No matter how hard the network of environmentally concerned citizens pushes, they cannot get through. The reason is because the old power industries wish to hold on to as much power and money as they possibly can and will not budge.

In order to create change, it is necessary to appeal to a different old power. The citizens need the government to step in and regulate industry. The only way for change to happen is for the all decreeing hand of the State to force it to happen. The president must use the power he has to force industries to help the environment (or at least not harm it).

This is an example of new power and old power converging. The people are supporting the president. The people are creating power and giving it to him. He can now put his foot down and say “this is what my people want so this is what I will do”. The fact that the power is created by many is a trait of new power however, the fact that one man is exerting all this power leans more towards old power.

I feel as though, when it comes to the environment, both kinds of power are essential. The people need to gather and create their own change but at the same time, governments need to use their old power and crack down on industry. Perhaps, such a balance is what is needed to achieve the balance between environmental sustainability and economic stability?