Monday, December 26, 2016

Mixed Messages about Climate Change

By Topher Hamblett, Director of Advocacy

As you might expect, the 2016 national election sent shockwaves through the environmental advocacy world. The President-elect’s mixed messages about climate change and nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with Speaker Paul Ryan’s November 9 remarks about taking aim at the Clean Water Act and its ‘job-killing’ regulations sent chills down my spine and set off alarm bells in my head.

What can I do? What can we do? You may have asked yourself these questions more than once since Election Day. I was asked these questions during a recent television interview. My response then, and now, is: the responsibility for our local environment belongs to us locally. We can't, and shouldn't, be overreliant on the federal government. We all must now double our efforts to protect the amazing gains we've achieved in improving Narragansett Bay and safeguarding our land, water and air for nearly 50 years. 

I like to celebrate our success transforming Narragansett Bay from an open sewer to a spectacular water body that defines our sense of place and evokes pride among the people who live here. Look at the Providence River, from spring to fall, and you will see hundreds of people fishing from boats and from the shoreline.This view was unthinkable just a generation ago. We are, however, far from done, and we must deal with the immediate threats, those we can actually do something about: enforcing the environmental laws on the books right now; finally tackling the age-old problem of polluted run-off, which still impairs our waters and causes swimming beach closures; and, the big one, dealing with the immediate threats of sea level rise, coastal erosion and the loss of our Bay’s precious salt marshes.  

If anything, the election renewed my sense of urgency to protect Narragansett Bay. I will count on our congressional delegation to hold the fort in Washington, from the EPA nominee’s confirmation hearings to protecting the Clean Water Act and the many programs that have been the foundation for our reclamation of Narragansett Bay. But I will also ask you to join me in affirming our commitment take care of things at home. That is the best thing we can do, right now.

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