5 Ways the Trump Administration Will (Probably) Wreck the Environment and Food System

donald trump administration
Image care of Gage Skidmore

There are a lot of things we really, really don’t like about the new resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but even if we just focus on the environment and our food system, it’s enough to bring us to tears. But crying gets us nowhere – staying informed does. With that in mind, here are five ways you might not have realized that the Trump administration is poised to muck up the environment and our food system.

1. The Wall will emit more CO2 than 700,000 homes.

Aside from just being a poor diplomatic decision and an even worse financial one, Trump’s infamous wall is a disaster as far as the environment is concerned.

A 1,000-mile wall 50 feet tall, 15 feet underground, and one-foot thick would require approximately 9.7 million cubic meters of concrete and 2.3 billion kilograms of steel to build, according to Technology Review.

With about 380 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions for every cubic meter of concrete poured, according to the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment at the University of Bath, this wall is not only going to cost us $40 billion and our relationship with Mexico (and, let’s face it, most of the free world), but also emit upwards of 7 million metric tons of CO2 — the same as more than 700,000 homes, 16 billion barrels of oil, or two entire coal-fueled power plants in a year.

2. The Wall will harm endangered species.

A report last year based on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data showed that the construction of the border wall could have a negative impact on “111 endangered species, 108 species of migratory birds, four wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, and an unknown number of protected wetlands.”

Dan Millis of the Sierra Club’s Borderlands Project called the wall “an act of self-sabotage,” noting that wildlife migrations have already been blocked with the current walls and fences that exist along the border.

“At the border wall, people have found large mammals confounded and not knowing what to do,” Jesse Lasky, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State University, told the Washington Post, citing deer, mountain lions, jaguar, and ocelots as just some of these animals. A wall cutting off these isolated populations could keep them from mating effectively and sustainably, according to Lasky.

And this isn’t just conjecture: in Slovenia, where 111 miles of barbed-wire fence have been erected along the border with Croatia over the course of the past few years, “a slew of mangled animal carcasses—especially deer—have been found,” according to The Washington Post.

Bringing these issues to the attention of the Trump administration is unlikely to have positive effects, according to Cassandra Carmichael, Executive Director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, who notes that Ryan Zinke, Trump’s nominee for Interior Secretary, has led federal efforts to remove or reduce protections for endangered species including wolves and lynx.

Seeing as congressional Republicans have already been attacking the Endangered Species Act in the past few years, the advent of the Trump administration doesn’t bode well for endangered species.

3. Climate change science is taking a major hit.

Soon after the Trump administration’s decision to put a temporary hold on the release of work by EPA scientists, activists claimed that climate science was in danger of being distorted — and they weren’t crying wolf. The White House website’s climate section has been removed, and a webpage entitled “Climate Change Facts: Answers to Common Questions” was taken off the EPA website.

In addition, Trump’s aides have already told Bloomberg that they plan to cancel Obama’s executive order to federal agencies to take climate change into account during formal environmental reviews.

Top it all off with the fact that Scott Pruitt, Trump’s choice to run the EPA, is not only on the oil and gas industry payroll but also continues to waver over whether “scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connections to the actions of mankind” (just a hint… 97 percent of them don’t), and one thing is clear: climate change will not be one of the top focuses of the Trump administration.

“There is a fear in the entire U.S. science community and, frankly, internationally too,” Christine McEntee, executive director of the American Geophysical Union, told to the Guardian with regards to Trump’s views on climate change. “People fear retribution over their work. There’s a feeling that climate scientists are being targeted.”

4. The National Parks may turn into sources for fossil fuel.

The National Parks may also be taking a hit under the new Trump administration, as one of the new additions to the White House website suggests: the “America First Energy Plan” will push for more drilling of America’s “estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands.”

Tensions are increasing between the National Park Service and the Trump administration. The administration forbade the Service from tweeting after the National Park Service retweeted messages negatively comparing the crowd sizes between the 2017 and 2009 inaugurations. (Badlands National Park defied the rule soon after by tweeting about ecological issues such as climate change.)

“That Trump’s first orders include suppression of information about the environment and prohibiting scientists and parks employees to speak suggests he sees America as little more than territory to strip down for parts,” explains the Guardian.

5. Advances made for food security under the Obamas may dissolve.

One major legacy of the Obama era – specifically the Michelle Obama era – is the advancement of food security policies. But her legacy might not survive the next four years: the Trump administration is expected to confront what the President calls “burdensome new rules” on food, stripping back regulations put into place during the Obama era.

Experts expect regulations concerning school lunches, the SNAP food stamps program, and even standards controlled by the FDA to be reduced under the Trump administration. Trump himself previously called for “a massive reduction in the country’s regulatory standards for foods,” according to Food and Wine, and even suggested he would eliminate “the FDA food police,” which he criticized for “inspection overkill.”

“The intrusive and expensive federal mandates on food options and menu labeling should be ended as soon as possible by a Republican Congress,” the GOP stated in its 2016 platform, directly opposing the mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods rule signed into law by Obama.

“We have a sense of (Trump’s) personal eating habits, but not his view of food policy,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington. “But given his anti-regulatory, anti-science rhetoric, we’re on high alert.”

Frankly, we all should be.

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Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.