It was July 21, 2016 when 225,000 liters of crude oil spilled from a pipeline into the North Saskatchewan River in Canada, contaminating the drinking water for two cities, and killing hundreds of wildlife. It took months for those residents to get back their primary source of water.
On Monday, it happened again. Another pipeline in Saskatchewan, managed by a different oil company, spilled some 200,000 liters into agricultural land on one of Canada’s First Nations.
Oil spills are inevitable side effects of economic development. While scientific discoveries continue to enlighten us on climate change and the dangers caused by excess carbon emissions released from burning oil and coal, and governments adapt by increasing emphasis on natural energy, the bottom line is that oil – and lots of it — is still necessary for civilizations to flourish.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a concerted effort to do better.
President Obama did more to protect the environment than any president in history. He placed moratoriums on coal production, limited offshore drilling, set regulations for carbon emissions, and protected national landmarks.
This, of course, was at the risk of eliminating jobs that come with the production of these resources, a fact that hurt his popularity in the Rust Belt states – a region that tilted the election towards Donald Trump this past November.
Two signature and heavily symbolic decisions by the Obama administration was the cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline and the curtailment of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a proposal that became the focus of protests from Native Americans, who said the oil would flow underneath sacred sites and, in the event of a leak (which are not uncommon — see above), would poison their drinking water.
The decisions were met with overwhelming praise from environmental activists and supporters of the Native American protesters. For once, the government acted in favor of our indigenous people, who, 200 years ago, we banished to the furthest depths of our country so we could take their land and use it for our own benefit.
On Tuesday, President Trump reversed both those decisions.
It was one memorandum signed by Trump in what has been a rampage of executive orders to undo the policies put into place by Obama, namely on healthcare, national security, immigration, foreign policy and now the environment. Heck, today he even ordered for funds to be put aside to build a border wall.
People said we should wait and see what Trump does before reacting.
This is what he is doing.
Executive orders only have so much pull. They are exactly that – an order. They aren’t law. But they set the tone and make clear what the administration wishes to accomplish. If you’ve been disenchanted by the political process and have stopped paying attention, then I advise you to tune back in. Because Trump is laying the groundwork for his presidency as we speak.
And maybe you like what he’s doing. He’s certainly acting on his campaign promises. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada who became a close friend of Obama’s, supported Trump’s revival of the Keystone Pipeline.
Earlier this week, Bernie Sanders applauded Trump’s decision to reject the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that was central to Obama’s “pivot” to Asia.
But when people protested immediately after Nov. 8, they were criticized for their impatience for not waiting to let Trump do his job.
When they protested the day after his inauguration, critics still wondered why they weren’t giving him more time.
We are now past that. Trump is legislating. And for many, their worst fears are being realized.
No president has stoked people’s emotions more than Trump. Because of the discord he created, it shouldn’t surprise anyone when his actions are met with demonstrations and outcry.
People are passionate about what they believe in. And people will fight.
And Trump is giving them plenty of reason to fight.
I just hope nobody gets hurt.