Who Makes Policy Campaign 2016 Edition

“Trump Two-Step”

With the presidential victory already in hand, we’ve seen Trump begin to “backtrack” on several policy stances he strongly spoke to during his campaign. For example, during his 60 minutes interview he stated the desire to keep several concepts of Obamacare such as providing coverage for people with preexisting conditions and children still living with their parents. Additionally, he has declared to not pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton once in Office, an advisor from his camp said Trump may not “rip up” the Iran deal but will review it, and in a recent New York Times interview stated “I think there is some connectivity” between climate change and human production. One cannot help but wonder if Trump’s stances during his election were simply strategic to attract a certain voter base; however, The Atlantic published an article that warns against jumping to that conclusion.

“Talk like a Moderate. Act like an Extremist.”

Although Trump is making public statements that may put the minds of moderates and liberals more at ease, it is essential for one to look to his appointments and actions. Whether one agrees with Trump or not, he seems to have a tendency to say what people need/want to hear the most. Could his more moderate policy changes be a simple tactic of calming down his opposition, all the while he appoints individuals who will pursue the extremist stances he championed for during the campaign? This is what the Atlantic article argues. Although Trump has appeared to shift more center, his team of appointments includes Myron Ebell to the EPA, a long-time climate change skeptic who expressed plans to cut NASA’s “politically correct” Earth Science research, and Steven Groves to the State Department who is advocating for withdrawal from the Paris Climate Deal and a “dismantling” of domestic climate regulations. It is far more important to look to Trump’s transition team than it is to cling to his post-victory claims. With a divided nation, it makes sense for Trump to moderate some of his stances, but this does not necessarily translate into less extremist action.

Argentinian Women’s Movement Fighting for Better Policy

In 2015, Argentinian women mobilized a new movement called “Ni Una Menos” (Not One Less) to improve the rights of women in their country, specifically in response to a series of violent femicides. The movement released the country’s first ever index reporting data on violence against women in Argentina. They recorded responses from 59,000 participants on issues such as discrimination, stigmatization, and emotional and physical violence. Some results are as follows: “67 percent of women have experienced a physically violent situation with their partners, 79 percent have been touched inappropriately on public transportation, and 20 percent have been raped.” The group’s research was collected in hopes of pursuing better policy initiatives. Ni Una Menos’ mobilization inspired the Argentinian government to develop a plan to collect data on femicide statistics, but the government’s failure to collect data on violence against women aside from femicide led to the group’s own research project.

Armed with this data, Ni Una Menos is hoping awareness will speak to not just femicide, but also to the violence women experience everyday. The group is urging politicians to finally implement the government’s 2009 plan to eradicate violence against women, along with putting domestic violence office in the Supreme Court of every province in Argentina (Only 5 out of 23 provinces have a domestic violence office today).

Violence Against Women has reached a new height in Argentina as statistics report “crimes against women have risen 78% since 2008 in Argentina.” Just last month, over 70,000 women protested the rape and death of a 16 year old girl. The voices of women are ringing louder than ever over the frustration of their government’s inadequate response to this growing public problem. Although it may be slow, a cultural change is brewing. Sometimes its on us as citizens to push the government to pursue the policies they need to.

Women demonstrating against gender violence in Buenos Aires.

 

The Uncertain Future Of Environmental Policy

Given Trump’s belief that Climate Change is an “expensive Chinese hoax,” it is important to ask what will American environmental policy look like once he transitions to the presidency? Trump has made several statements about stripping down the environmental policies of the Obama Administration, so I wanted to research which initiatives will face likely danger and which might be more protected.

Policies At Risk
1. Paris Climate Agreement: Trump has pledged to withdraw the U.S. and “there’s little stopping him.” Trump can pursue a variety of actions such as backing out of Obama’s emission reduction pledge, refusing to attend U.N. meeting about the agreement, or denying funds to poorer countries looking to decarbonize. China has declared it will pick up the efforts in the wake of an American absence, but the withdrawal of the U.S. will likely have a negative impact on the agreement’s success.
2. Reduction of Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards: Fuel economy standards are pledged to increase from the current 35 miles a gallon to 54.5 miles a gallon by 2025. Automakers are lobbying Trump to relax this effort and he will “have plenty of leeway to weaken these rules.” However, states can also step in and curtail these efforts.
3. “Green Drift”: This involves the leniency to adapt and expend environmental laws that were purposefully made open-ended. Republicans have long hated this ability for green law updates/expansion. They have repeatedly put forth a mandate to force “every economically significant federal regulation” to need the House and Senate approval, plus presidential signature. This would drastically restrict the ability to evolve environmental legislation with the times. With the GOP House, Senate, and president, this mandate has “a very real chance to become law.”

Policies That Are Likely (Hopefully) Safe
1. The Clean Power Act : This act “mandates major cuts in carbon dioxide emissions for coal-fired power plants.” It puts a limit on greenhouse emissions to move toward cleaner energy.
2. The Wetlands Rule : This rule “extends federal cleanup to small bodies of water like farm ponds and streams.”
**Because these two policies are passed the 60-day threshold for Republicans to have to right to override, they would demand very serious bureaucratic effort to eliminate.
3. Solar and Wind Credits: Solar and Wind energy has long relied on these tax credits. There is some logic to believing these credits are safe for now as an advisor on the Trump transition team commented they will “remain in place.”

Fingers crossed that the decades of environmental policy progress will not turn over during a Trump presidency. A positive from his election success is the significant growth in public response to environmental needs. Citizens have increased resistance and outcries across the country. This is evident from the vast outpouring of donations to environmental groups after Trump’s victory. Maybe this surge in resistance and anger is something the environmental movement really needs…

How Might Trump Presidency Affect Women

It’s no secret that Trump has a more than interesting track record regarding women and policies that may affect them. As he eases his position on Obamacare and other policies he argued for during his campaign, I wanted to look into the possible effects Trump policies may have on women when he becomes president.

First, there is a risk that women may be excluded from Combative roles in the military. Trump has publicly criticized the “overly” politically correct military development in recent years. Excluding women could very much happen considering an official law on the issue was never passed. Although Trump did comment on leaving it “up to the generals, admirals, and people on top.”
Second, there might be some improvement toward work-family policies, but there is debate whether that improvement will be adequate enough. Ivanka, Trump’s daughter, inspired several policies such as Childcare Reform and Paid Leave. If Congress allows his proposals to become law, families can take advantage of a tax deducation for child care as early as 2018. The Republican Congress might make such a policy very difficult to officially pass. Problems arise as Trump’s plan favors high-income families and will likely do little, if anything, for low-income parents. In terms of paid leave, Trump’s policy proposes six weeks paid leave to biological mothers only – so fathers, same-sex couple, and adoptive parents could face exclusion.
Third, we need to take a look at women’s healthcare. As Trump mulls over his supreme court appointment options, all eleven of them are Pro-Life. In terms of repealing Roe V. Wade, it seems unlikely even with the conservative appointments. Although overturn is strongly backed by Trump’s religious base, overturning disapproved of by thea decent majority of our country (59% in support of Pro-Choice) and harsh backlash would be inevitable. Repealing the Supreme Court decision on abortion, similarly to Same-Sex marriage, might be too risky. Trump’s vow to defund Planned Parenthood is a more realistic fear. Overall, he insists abortion rights should be left up to the states, and if a woman has a problem with that she can simply move to another state. Planned Parenthood stated a majority of their healthcare services support individuals who earn less than $19,000 a year. Again, we see the on-going burden faced by the growing poor.

Only time will tell as his presidency inches closer.

Water Under Continued Stress

I like posting about water issues in the U.S. and around the world because it’s a dangerous problem that tends to fall under the radar. Few people realize how prevalent of an issue this is, and will continue to become. Frequently we hear talk of climate change affecting our futures, but current depletion of our most vital resource is proof to stop grieving for future generations. It’s happening now. 

    1. Lake Cachuma, which supplies Southern California‘s Santa Barbara county with half of it’s drinking water supply, reached an all-time low of 7% capacity this summer and is predicted to be “too low to distribute” come this January. Southern California towns are in a panic of what will happen to their drinking water. There is talk of desalination efforts to convert Pacific Ocean saltwater.
    2. New York‘s Rockland county is proposing to buy $5 million gallons of drinking water from New Jersey each day because water supplies are too low. New Jersey has harshly criticized the efforts worrying the effect it will have, especially considering New Jersey is experiencing its worse drought in 14 years.
    3. A dangerous tidal salt front threatens drinking water in the Delaware River Basin. This salt front has reached the second closest point since Delaware’s severe drought of 1960. Talk is underway on how best to avoid contamination of the fresh water supply – declaring an emergency drought, seeking water from private reservoirs, or contacting the U.S. army to release more water into the basin.
    4. The City of Muncie in Indiana was placed under a Boil Water Advisory after the city’s water supplies violated safe drinking standards. Any drinking or cooking with tap water is asked to be boiled for three minutes before use because of discovered contaminants.
    5. Newburgh, New York is offering thousands of blood tests to its residents after discover a chemical reached dangerous levels in tap water supplies. This chemical “perfluorooctane sulfonate” has been linked to cancer and is used for firefighting foam. Come on people…. It’s worth noting Newburgh is a very poor city, which makes us question how environmental dangers disproportionately hurt the poor (Flint, Michigan for example!).
    6. Lake Baikal in Russia has been historically known as the World’s cleanest lake. Recently the lake has been “buried under thick mats of reeking greenish-black goo” which turned out to be a very toxic algae cause by influx of untreated human sewage due to poor wastewater treatment.

Also, World Meteorological Organization Scientists have predicted that 2016 will likely be the world’s hottest year on record – breaking all of 2015’s records.

Again, I found all of this news from articles of either today or yesterday.

Attaching some pictures below…

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Santa Barbara’s depleting Lake Cachuma.

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Russia’s Lake Baikal toxic algae – once known as the world’s cleanest lake.

Results of Energy Initiatives

Considering the disappointment of this election, I had mild hope restored from some of the state energy initiatives. Hopefully, they can give you all some hope too. Here are the results…

  1. Washington Carbon Tax: Rejected, but likely for the right reasons. Washington was 1st state attempting to impose a direct carbon tax; however, several progressive environmental groups such as the Sierra Club were opponents because the tax revenue would not go toward investing in clean energy. Many were happy because the rejection of it will allow for a better alternative in the future. Additionally, this initiative is significant as it will serve as a model for other bills and states moving forward.
  2. Florida Solar Energy Amendment: Rejected, but definitely for the right reasons! This strategically crafted bill was extremely misleading and actually included many sneaky, hidden fees and costs for solar energy consumers. The state of Florida has spoken – they want more friendly solar power policies, the freedom to harness it, and the prevention of monopolies. This deceptive bill was one of the most expensive ballots in American history with large oil and energy companies investing over 26 million, 100 times the amount of opponents. So much for the argument, Money Always Wins
  3. Nevada Clean Energy Initiative: Approved This bill was approved overwhelmingly so with 72%. Environmental activists can rejoice over this bill, which will allow for an open and competitive clean energy market that will reduce regulations and prohibit energy monopolies.
  4. Colorado Fracking: Approved So this bill is a bit of a setback. It was approved by 57%. The bill will make it more difficult for Colorado residents to make changes to the state’s constitution. Any constitutional amendments will need a 55% approval (as opposed to 50% plus one vote) and require signatures from all 35 districts. Fracking companies were strongly hoping for this to pass. Supporters of the bill feel amendments are passing to quickly in the state and want more careful, gradual change.

Overall, there is considerable good news with the energy initiatives we saw across various States. It appears that people do not necessarily not want more environmental polices – they just want better ones. The right ones. Some progress is being made. Especially because this issue is entering the public conversation more.

Important Energy Initiatives across U.S.

During this election, four states have put up significant initiatives regarding energy policy to be voted on by their citizens. The results of these initiatives can help see what direction our country will be moving toward with respect to climate change.

  1. Washington State Carbon Tax – supporters believe it will reduce emissions, however this tax is revenue neutral. Revenue from it will go toward taxes, not toward clean energy which has raised some criticism.
  2. Floria Solar Power – will protect the right to lease or own solar equipment without subsidizing those who are not using solar power. Opponents believe it will prevent the sale of unused energy, while supporters believe it will provide more rights to solar users.
  3. Colorado Fracking – a bill sponsored by oil and gas industry groups to make it difficult for local communities to block fracking efforts. The amendment would do so by raising the number of signatories for petitions.
  4. Nevada Energy Choice Initiative – aimed to let consumers choose an energy provider and sell the solar electricity they generate themselves. Big companies that leave the energy grid will pay hefty fines.

It’s good to see these types of initiatives entering the public conversation. I’ll try to post a follow up on the results!

Smog Nightmares

Residents in Delhi, India are being asked by their government to stay home to avoid the city’s dangerous polluted air and water. Those who leave their homes are asked to wear face masks as the silt in the air is coughing lung and throat damage. Schools were even asked to shut down keeping millions of children at home. The cloud of smog over Delhi is so bad that “A combination of smoke from burning farm residue in surrounding states, fireworks for the Hindu festival of Diwali, dust from construction work and vehicle emissions have pushed pollution levels to their highest in 17 years.” (Reuters, 2016 ). The acidic smog cloud is expected to expand its damage to nearby Indian cities such as Lucknow and several suburbs. The public is making a plea to the Indian Supreme court for authorities to monitor air quality better. As of now, many citizens live in fear.

Similar issues with toxic smog are being reported in several cities and suburbs in Pakistan. The air has been causing increases in respiratory health problems and a spike in car accidents with limited road visibility. Several areas of highways have been shut down because the visibility has become so bad. Construction dust, burning of garbage, factory emissions and motor vehicle exhausts appear to be the biggest contributors to Pakistan’s problem (Associated Press).

The environmental damage of one country will inevitably have rippling effects on others. Now India and Pakistan, where next?

The Biggest Risks Facing Us Today…

A New York Times article from today discusses the biggest risks and dangers that face humanity, and how the political discourse of our candidates focuses on dangers that are overblown and unlikely.

21 risk experts were asked to analyze what are the five biggest threats to the world. They stated:

  1. Climate Change (overwhelmingly)
  2. Use of nuclear weapons
  3. Pandemics – growing resistance to anti-bodies
  4. Cyberattacks
  5. Problems with high Technology – crippling results if world loses its electronic and internet connectivity as we have “created a machine we cannot live without”

**These results matched a larger risk analysis of 750 experts from this year’s World Economic Forum

Experts criticize Trump who discusses the United States’ biggest dangers as immigration, terrorism, and crime, and Hilary who discusses financial insecurity and gun violence as her biggest dangers for the U.S. Their campaigns are missing the very real risks that face us. In fact, “Extreme Weather has killed more than twice as many people in the United States in the past 15 years, even including September 11th.” 

With our presidential candidates focusing their campaigns on issues that easily trigger emotional responses, instead of issues that may appear more abstract but are very real, serious danger can be waiting for us in our near future. We need to shift our country’s priorities.

Water Issues Across the World

In the face of Climate Change skepticism, I would simply ask someone to look at the world around us. Across the United States and the world, water supplies continue to be at risk and disputed.

  • In Charleston West Virginia, 224,000 area residents, more than 7,300 business owners and an undetermined number of hourly wage earners are currently waiting for the pay out of $151 million dollar settlement because of a chemical spill that tainted local water
  • Currently, the Nile River is yellow/brown, murky, and filled with silt because of days of heavy rain causing soil runoff. The flood’s pollution forced Water Treatment Plants to close and tap water is advised against.
  • Recent Reports state Lake Chad in Nigeria that supplies water to millions of people has shrunk to a twentieth of its size.
  • Villages along the West Bank are experiencing water shortages with as rainfall continues to decrease and groundwater levels drop. Tensions arise between West Bank villages and Isreal regarding share of water supplies in the region.
  • Imja, a glacial lake in Nepal, has been continuously rising in level over the years. It rose to a dangerous level that threatened harmful flooding to several villages. Melting Snow Caps from the Himalayan Mountains are causing the lake’s rise. Soldiers and villagers dug through rocks to drain out 141 million cubic feet of water from the lake

These incidents were all reported from news articles published TODAY. This is alarming in and of itself.