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"Route 61 Crack in Centralia, Pennsylvania" by JohnDS is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

Centralia, Pennsylvania has been burning since 1962. Or rather, the ground beneath the town is burning: an underground coal seam fire that caused the town to be mostly abandoned has been burning for over 50 years, and will continue for at least another 250. The fire likely began when a trash fire ignited the coal seam in the network of old mines beneath the town. Gradually, a slow apocalypse took place: snow couldn’t always stick to the heated ground, vegetables could grow year-round, the main highway sunk eight feet, and residents began to pass out from carbon monoxide gas issuing from their basements. By 1991, the town was almost entirely government-owned under eminent domain, and in 2002 the ZIP code was revoked. The few residents that remain do so at their own risk.

"Volkswagen" by Mahal is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pixabay)

It seemed as though the world had seen the end of Volkswagen after a massive scandal was uncovered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back in September 2015. One of VW’s major marketing campaigns in the United States was flaunting their diesel cars’ low emissions. It turns out, in fact, that they had been cheating on emissions tests for years by installing software in their cars to detect when an emissions test was being run. At least 482,000 cars were discovered with this “defeat device” in the United States, and the German car maker admitted to producing 11 million cars worldwide with this device as well. The crisis has even been termed “Dieselgate” by some. With society’s trend towards environmental consciousness, many were unsure how VW would recover from this.

"People's Climate March 2014 NYC" by South Bend Voice is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

Mere days away from The People’s Climate March in Washington D.C., at least 100,000 people are estimated to march in the streets. One quick Google search of “Climate March D.C.” turns up dozens of articles on why marching next Saturday is important. However, in terms of social activism, and specifically climate change, is protesting a true form of advocacy? Much of the climate march this year is focused on “fighting back,” specifically against the Trump administration. But is turning the environmental movement into a direct political one ethical? And what is the danger in turning a movement into a large-scale march?

"Half Dome Ropes" by Daniel Schwen is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

This past year marked the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS). Created in 1916, the NPS has had a long standing tradition of stewardship that has preserved many of America’s most beautiful areas from the threats of manifest destiny and American exceptionalism. However, the NPS must now deal with a new threat presented through overcrowding and the environmentally degrading practices that come with it. Taken to the extreme through the example of Zion National Park, where rising crowds resulted in six million people visiting the six-mile-long stretch of canyon last year, can result in major infrastructure changes to mitigate the anthropogenic effects.

"IMG_3897" by Andy Cook is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

Last week, Democrats in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee sat out Scott Pruitt’s confirmation vote. Pruitt had been nominated by President Trump as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and was heavily criticized for his history of accepting money from anti-environmental interest groups. Though this was heralded as a virtuous political statement, the Republicans on the committee managed to approve the vote by changing the rules of Senate appointments. Though many environmentalists see this appointment as the end of the EPA as we know it, the appointment of Scott Pruitt is not the most serious threat to the EPA. Florida Representative Matt Gaetz recently introduced H.R. 861, which has the sole purpose “To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.” Though many might consider nominating a man with no scientific background and conflicts of interest to head the EPA as unethical, what are the ethics of completely disbanding the Environmental Protection Agency as a whole?

"Bluefin Tuna" by Dennis Tang is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

A recent auction of bluefin tuna at the Tsukiji market in Tokyo sparked recurring discussions over the environmental and economic effects that overfishing and big tuna businesses are putting on local areas and fisheries. This came as a 212-kilogram fish sold at Tsukiji for 74.2 million yen (or the equivalent $64,200), which per piece would cost over 25 times the 400 yen usually charged at the bidder’s restaurants.

"Al Gore at Power Shift 2011 in Washington DC" by Kasey Baker is licensed under CC BY 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Former Vice President Al Gore is making headlines after his meeting with President-elect Donald Trump on December 5th. After the meeting, he sat for an interview with the Guardian about their conversation  and the election in general. In the interview, Gore stated that, for the sake of the environment, we do not have “time to despair” over the results of the election and that “despair is just another form of denial.” Gore is known for his environmental activism, most specifically his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which highlighted the urgency of climate change in 2006. Gore even won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to combat climate change. Though many environmentalists might agree with Gore, are his statements acceptable? Is it fair to compare grief from the election to denial? And is Gore failing to recognize the marginalized identities that are at stake as a result of the election?

"Adoption of the Paris Agreement" by UNclimatechange is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

As the COP22 (a conference where world leaders gather to discuss climate policies) took place in Marrakech a few weeks ago, environmentalists were optimistic about the enforcement of the Paris agreement: 195 countries are committing to keep global temperatures at two degrees above pre-industrial levels. Although some more radical environmentalist groups complain this deal is insufficient, it is widely announced by world leaders as a major breakthrough in the struggle against global warming.

"Sea Level Rise" by NPS Climate Change is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Flickr)

Two days after the 2016 presidential election, John Abraham published an article on the Guardian titled “Conservatives elected Trump; Now They Own Climate Change.” In the article, Abraham claims that conservatives now “own” climate change due to Trump’s victory and the lack of action from conservative politicians, both in the United States and around the world. But is it fair to blame any person, group, or ideology for climate change? And if so, how can we determine who we should hold accountable?

"Séance pleinière de la COP21 pour l’adoption de l’accord de Paris (Salle Seine - Le Bourget)" by COP Paris via Flickr (Public Domain)

This past week, following his presidential victory, president-elect Donald Trump named Myron Ebell, a staunch dissenter on climate change, as his head of transition committee for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Alongside Ebell’s nomination, Sarah Palin and Forrest Lucas have been names mentioned in possible positions within the Department of Interior and Department of Energy. The implications these nominations hold  for the future of American environmental policies and climate carry major weight. To fully digest these implications, one must look into Trump’s environmental stances and those of his possible future nominations.