'Inconvenient Sequel' Exec Producer Laurie David Pens Open Letter to President Trump: "Your Actions Matter"

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Laurie David

"Like millions of other Americans, I’m deeply troubled. I hope you’ll be able to allay our concerns, and soon."

Laurie David is an environmental activist and executive producer on Al Gore's An Inconvenient Sequel. After reports of President Donald Trump planning to slash the EPA budget and an agency-wide communications lockdown, David wrote an open letter to the president pleading for attention to environmental issues during his administration. 

Dear President Trump,

I was pleased to see you quoted this week as saying “I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist, I believe in it.” Welcome, sir, to the club! Your words, as president, help set the tone for the nation, and it’s good to know you share the core American goal of leaving our children a better world, even than what was left to us.

As important as your words are, sir, your actions matter even more. And, here, like millions of other Americans, I’m deeply troubled. I hope you’ll be able to allay our concerns, and soon.

We just finished the hottest year since global record-keeping began in 1880. It was the third year in a row we broke that record. And 16 of the hottest years ever recorded have all occurred in this century. We see the impacts all around us in rising seas, raging wildfires, droughts and floods, widening deserts and withering heat that impacts our crops and our health. 

We know what’s causing global climate change — the carbon pollution from burning coal, oil and gas. And we know what we must do about it: Shift away from dirty fossil fuels by investing in efficiency, building more all-electric and hybrid cars, and powering them with more clean energy from the wind and sun.

We’re making enormous progress in all three areas, enough to have cut our carbon footprint, nationally, by 9.4 percent between 2008 and 2015, even as our economy grew an inflation-adjusted 10.6 percent. Making the transition to cleaner energy has created 2.5 million good-paying heartland jobs for American carpenters, electricians, tool and die makers, steel workers and others. And, by doing what’s best for our people here at home, we led the rest of the world to get on board, in Paris, with a global shift to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.

That’s a triumph of American leadership. We’re on the right track. It’s time to build on this progress — for the good of our workers, our economy and our future.

And yet, there are reports that you intend to walk away from these essential gains, throw a wrench in the clean energy economic boom and anchor our future to the dirty fossil fuels of the past. Reports that you want to dismantle the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan — a sound initiative to clean up the dirty power plants that account for 40 percent of our national carbon footprint. There are also reports that you intend to de-fund American commitments made in Paris to help low-income countries fight climate change. 

I understand how this approach would serve the interests of the fossil fuel industry. For the rest of us, though, this would be disastrous — economically, diplomatically and environmentally. We have an obligation to protect future generations from the growing dangers of climate change. You, Mr. President, have an obligation to protect future generations from this gathering scourge. We cannot wish these dangers away or pretend they somehow don’t exist.

And yet, your nominee to head the EPA — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt — testified last week before U.S. Senators that human activity is contributing to climate change “in some manner” but there is “continuing debate” about the extent of that impact. 

That, sir, is nothing more than a new form of climate denial meant to block the action we need to fight climate change. It’s the same sorry tactic the tobacco industry deployed for decades to block needed action to protect our people against the dangers of smoking cigarettes.

Pruitt has built a career out of trying to prevent the EPA from doing its job protecting our environment and health. He’s filed one lawsuit after another — or joined in suits with the fossil fuel industry that has contributed more than $300,000 to fund his political career — to try to block common-sense EPA measures meant to clean up our air and water. He even tried to block the EPA plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay — some 1,400 miles from Oklahoma!

Against that background, it’s especially disturbing to read reports that you intend to roll back the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, aimed at protecting the wetlands and streams that feed drinking water sources for one in every three Americans. Or that you intend to do away with a new rule that protects coal communities from the ravages of mountaintop removal. Or that you plan major budget cuts at the EPA, which has already seen its budget cut nearly 4 percent over the past five years and taken a 10-percent cut in staff.

I’m appalled that you, sir, reopened the issue of the Keystone XL dirty tar sands pipeline this week, inviting TransCanada to reapply for permission to build a project that has rightly been denied. And I’m outraged that you chose to sweep aside the right of the Standing Rock Sioux people to be heard — through the development of an Environmental Impact Statement — on the question of how the Dakota Access pipeline, as currently routed, threatens their sacred spaces, drinking water and lands. And I’m equally opposed to your calls to hand over more of our cherished public lands to coal, oil and gas development, do away with limits on methane pollution from these sites and expose more of our precious ocean waters to the hazards and harm of offshore drilling.

I was further distressed to learn this week that EPA grants and contracts had been frozen, halting in its tracks the programs through which the EPA employs private firms to test the lead in the water we drink, monitor the pollution in the air we breathe and get toxic chemicals out of abandoned industrial sites at the best possible price to the taxpayer. Worse, I see where EPA officials have been forbidden to communicate with the media.

These are direct strikes, Mr. President, at our environment and health, our values and even our essential rights to be heard and to know what our government is doing on our behalf. That, sir, is not great. It must be turned around — and fast.

As a mother, Mr. President, I’m concerned about the kind of world we create for our children. As an environmentalist, I’m working hard to make sure we leave them a livable world. And, as an American, I’ll stand up for the values that bind us, as a nation, and our Constitutional rights. Millions more will stand with me. My question is, Mr. President: Will you?

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