One Indiana farmer contends that President-elect Donald Trump accomplished more before he even took office than President Barack Obama did in eight years. Of course, that’s a polarizing statement which totally depends on your point of view. If you’re tired of environmental regulations run amok and restrictions that hamstring both farmers and small businesses, you would likely agree. If you think environmental protection was going in the right direction, you would disagree.
That’s not surprising. What is a bit unnerving is the degree to which these views are being expressed on both sides. If there ever was a middle ground between those who believe in responsible use of natural resources and those who think Americans are better off when large government agencies control what happens to the environment, it’s rapidly disappearing. Has the opportunity for compromise and rational reasoning closed? That remains to be seen.
President-elect Trump sent message after message with nearly every cabinet nomination for posts related to the environment. It was time for a new day, and time to reverse course on limiting what farmers, ranchers and businesspeople could do. It was time for a more rational approach to protecting the environment. At least that’s how it appears to some.
Others seem to fear losing gains made through decades of what the other side believes was overreach by big agencies, especially EPA. One group, Friends of the Earth, issued press releases every time a new nominee related to the environment was tapped. Finally, on Dec. 21, it seemed that their fear and ire bubbled over. The group issued this news release: "Stand up to Trump in your community."
It began: “There has never been a more important moment to fight for the future of our planet.” That might be the one thing both sides of the environmental divide can agree on — that we are at a pivotal moment in history related to how Americans will view the environment for decades to come.
Then came this: “Donald Trump wants the fossil fuel industry to dig up every drop of oil and lump of coal it can get its hands on. He can’t wait to gut the Clean Power Plan. And he’s got climate change scientists so nervous that they’re copying crucial government data to make sure it won’t be destroyed."
Over the top? You decide for yourself. Is this what they really believe? Or are they simply turning opposition into a cash cow? There is always a big "donate" button on each news release online.
What is clear is that it will be difficult for compromise and reason to prevail as long as this type of rhetoric is the norm. There is virtually no sign of any interest in finding common ground in those statements.
No one says the environment shouldn’t be protected. No one says there shouldn’t be open, honest debate about what makes sense for environmental stewardship.
But what also isn’t being said by either side is that there needs to be compromise. How this giant tussle will play out is hard to predict. What’s at stake is more than the natural resources of the U.S. It’s the future for our kids and grandkids. We can only hope that at some point, the edge comes off the rhetoric on both sides, and a tiny sliver of common ground reappears.