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We can’t keep denying Hurricane Harvey’s link to climate change

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By Issy McConville

In a moment that could have been plucked directly from a TV satire, US President Donald Trump complimented the large ‘turnout’ of a crowd of Texans recently devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Insensitive as he may be, Trump was pointing to a certain truth about the scale of Hurricane Harvey’s impact. With over 40,000 people displaced and a rising death toll, the cost of damages is predicted to be higher even than Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which had a cost of over $100 billion.

Only 12 years ago, after the Gulf Coast was rocked by Hurricane Katrina, George Bush promised hope anew for Louisiana, and vowed, ‘This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. We’re going to review every action and make necessary changes so that we are better prepared for any challenge of nature or act of evil men that could threaten our people.’ But what lessons have we really learned?

Hurricane Harvey, like Katrina, was an unpredictable natural disaster, but it would be foolish to ignore the human impact that exacerbated their impacts. Rising global temperatures, in large part due to greenhouse gas emissions, have contributed to rising sea levels and creates more intense storms. In the Gulf Coast region, the government and the oil industry have put a strain on the unique environment, helping to strip the land of its natural ability to withstand such storms. The course of the Mississippi river has for years been directed by man-made levees, and a series of canals have been dug in for the purpose of extracting gas and oil, both actions which mean the river no longer deposits sediment like it used to, which forms the basis of much of the land cities like New Orleans and Houston are built on.

Back in 2005, politicians denied climate change, and they continue to do so today. In Texas, which must now completely rebuild many communities, and repair billions of dollars worth of infrastructure, four of its leading politicians, including Republican Senator Ted Cruz, have expressed doubt that climate change is happening at all. From muted skepticism to almost incredulous denial – see right-wing pundit Ann Coulter who suggested on Twitter God’s revenge for the election of a lesbian politician was a more rational explanation for Hurricane Harvey than climate change – the balance of power belongs to those who deny climate change. In his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump has signalled a complete disregard for environmental policy, such as signing an Executive Order to undo Obama’s Clean Air Act which would limit greenhouse gas emissions, and withdrawing the US from the Paris climate agreement. Ironically, only 2 weeks before Hurricane Harvey, Trump did away with another Obama-era policy, which required federally-funded projects to utilise climate science and assess the flood risk of potential construction.

Alongside the tragedy, we have seen outpourings of support and humanity, from fellow Texans rescuing their neighbours to thousands of charitable donations. But this is not enough. We cannot afford to simply react to crises, we must try to prevent them from happening again – and this means accepting the reality of climate change. Hurricane Harvey may have been an act of nature, but it was our hands that tipped the balance. This time, let’s really learn, and push our governments towards climate policies that will protect our future.

The Diplomatic Disaster of Trump’s Relations with China

Author:
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By Amy Callaghan

The relationship between the US and China is one of the most significant relationships of the 21st century. China’s role as an international power and its place as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council means that it is a vital and powerful ally to the US internationally.

US concerns about the rising power of China in East Asia, and Chinese concerns about the tendency of the US to interfere and impede on affairs which China considered purely domestic, have been the main reason for tensions between the two countries in the past.

Since the end of the Cold War, a delicate diplomacy has emerged between China and the US, hinging on a core set of values and established rules of interaction between the two. Both countries are incredibly reliant on each other both from an international diplomacy point of view as well as in terms of economics and trade, and this is why the election of Donald Trump as president of the US has caused such concerns over the future of the US-Chinese relationship.

One of the most crucial aspects of the relationship is adherence to the ‘One China’ policy. Put into simple terms, the ‘One China’ policy means that the US only recognises the People’s Republic of China, governed in Beijing, rather than the Republic of China, governed from Taipei in Taiwan.

In the past, issues between the US and China which have nearly led to open conflict have centred on perceived breaking of this principle – for example, the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis nearly resulted in use of military force by the US and China against each other. This crisis was caused by a state visit from the newly elected president of Taiwan to the US, which appeared to China to be a direct threat to the One-China principle. From this perspective, then, it is clear why then president-elect Trump’s phone call to the president of Taiwan in December 2016 caused tensions between the US and China, with experts from the White House rushing to assure the Chinese government in Beijing that the US intended to adhere to the One-China policy.

Evan Medeiros, the Asia director at the White House national security council, told the Financial Times: “The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action of historic proportions. Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative. With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for US-China relations.”

Diplomatic blunders such as these are why the presidency of Donald Trump could throw established international relationships into chaos.

Domestically, of course, Trump’s presidency has been anything but peaceful and stable – he has demonstrated a distinct lack of understanding of the judicial system among other things, as well as enacting essentially unconstitutional policies such as the Muslim ban. However, it will be these international diplomatic blunders which cause Trump – and the US as a whole – the greatest issues in maintaining their status as a power with unrivalled global influence. In recent days, Trump has committed to maintaining the One-China policy in a phone call to Xi Jinping, the president of China, yet the fear and uncertainty about Trump’s intentions caused by his initial blunder and stance on the issue is now a part of the Chinese perspective on the US for the foreseeable future.

It is unclear, as with so many issues arising from Trump’s presidency, how this situation will play out over the next four years. Maintaining a stable and cooperative relationship with China was one of the priorities of the Obama administration, as its importance as an ally of the US was given the value and significance it deserved.

However, with his customary tough talk and his ambitions to ‘Make America Great Again’, Trump could completely throw off the balance of the international stage, and nothing is a clearer indicator of this than his interactions with China up to this point. Threatening the stability of America’s relationship with China would have disastrous repercussions globally, from an economic perspective as well as a threat to keeping the peace between the two countries.

One week after the Women’s March: what now?

Author:
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It’s been 1 week since the Women’s March where millions of people stood against Trump, and perhaps more importantly stood in solidarity with each other against what Trump stands for. One week on, we reflect on some of our experiences of the march, and some of our hopes for the future…
Awakening to the news that the women’s march was the largest protest in U.S history made me speechless. Awakening to the news that an estimated 2.9 million marched in the country surprised me. As someone who avoided the inauguration because I believe that this country was in a hopeless state, I found myself in an unexpected state of optimism. Seeing so many committed to women’s rights was uplifting. Moving forward, I hope that women of all identities will not only continue to fight for the rights of women, but also fight women from minority races, the LGBTQ community, the Muslim community, and more. I hope that a stronger and larger coalition of women forms in years to come. I hope that more female politicians specifically those in the white house and females in positions of power push an agenda that protects the rights of women in collaboration with the millions of citizens who want the rights of women protected.

– Maram Elnagheeb

Last week I marched in a loving community of 500,000 people, which now seems like a drop in the bucket of over 4 million people worldwide. We marched not just in opposition to the inauguration of a President, but in protest of the unequal treatment of women worldwide who are standing up to say, “We have had enough.” It was one of the single greatest moments of my life because for the first time I know I’m not alone. There are millions of women and we are fighting together regardless of race, gender, sexuality, citizenship status,and physical or mental ability status. When you cut one of us, we all bleed and we are refusing to bleed anymore. We sent a clear message to political leaders across the world, we are here, we are loud, we are energized and we will not go away. The war on women has gone on for far too long, we are prepared to stand up until we are all equal. Stand up and rise we will.

– Christiana Paradis, Washington DC march

The Women’s March was the biggest I’ve been on in my life, and I’ve been on a lot of marches. From the sheer scale of things it’s obvious that Trump’s presidency has really upset and terrified a lot of people, even over here in the UK. I think it’s important that we don’t stop with the march – that we continue to show solidarity with women and oppressed groups worldwide, now and in the future. Marching is great – but what now? It’s important we take action to support others, and keep resisting.

– Yas Necati, London March

Let’s keep standing with Standing Rock

Author:
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By Stephanie Wang

Undoubtedly, a Trump presidency threatens the legacy of President Obama by reverting the policy moves he’s made the past eight years.  His decision to build the Dakota Access Pipeline is devastating, and as an environmentalist and an activist, I cannot reconcile the idea of building the pipeline when it will only set forth a precedent of placing money above lives, culture, and the environment.

Building the Dakota Access Pipeline will have terribly negative impacts on the Sioux population living in the region, posing both an environmental and cultural threat to the Sioux Indians. The Dakota Access Pipeline will destroy sacred sites that have existed for hundreds of years and destroy ancient burial grounds, which is a direct violation of federal law. In addition, the pipeline could potentially contaminate the water supply of the Sioux Indians – an oil spill at the Missouri River would befall an economic and cultural catastrophe upon the Sioux population, permanently contaminating the Missouri River, a major water source for those living in the area. Without question, the Dakota Access Pipeline poses both an environmental and cultural threat to the Sioux Indians and completing the pipeline will signify that oil and the energy is more important than human lives– what will be the cost of such “progress” that the Trump administration is determined to greenlight?

Naturally, the construction of the pipeline has been extremely contentious, with thousands protesting near the Standing Rock area. These protests have lead to hundreds of arrests and the use of force and other violent tactics to disperse the protesters. On largely peaceful protests, police have used attack dogs, water cannons in freezing temperatures, and explosive teargas grenades, injuring hundreds. Freedom of assembly is a basic right in the United States, and yet, it’s something that’s being infringed upon in Standing Rock.

The company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, calls the decision to build the pipeline, “a purely political action” but when there are humans lives at risk, it cannot be purely political. When we are reduced to simply making decisions for the bottom line, at what cost will it come at? How many lives will be sacrificed and how can we possibly justify it? Once the Dakota Access Pipeline is built, what will stop the Trump administration from building more, disrupting and endangering more communities? What will stop the Trump administration from entirely disregarding our civil rights in the name of economic “progress”? That’s why we can’t stop protesting against the pipeline being built.
Now, more than ever, we need to show our support and solidarity for the Sioux Indians and the protesters in Standing Rock. It can be as simple as reblogging, sharing, or retweeting an article on #NoDAPL, signing a petition, or attending a #NoDAPL protest in your city. You can also get involved by writing to government officials and oil companies urging them to reverse the decision or by donating money to the Standing Rock Sioux for legal, sanitary, and emergency purposes. Every action counts and every action will help ensure that the Obama administration’s actions and the protests of the Sioux people to stop the building of the pipeline were not in vain.

For more ways to get involved, check this link out.

Today we march

Author:
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By Isla Whateley

Content note: Donald Trump, mentions of sexual assault, rape, incest and abortion

Today, women from all over the world will unite in a march of solidarity, in order to prove just how important women’s rights are and to prove to the new Trump administration that they cannot ignore us. The main march is in Washington DC, but many other cities across the world are hosting their own marches on US embassies and consulates. You can find a march near you here!

The Trump administration looms upon us after his inauguration yesterday as President of the United States of America, also known as the most powerful person on Earth. He is known for his racist, xenophobic, sexist and homophobic views and many have been dreading this day since his election in November, including myself and everyone else I know.

As a young woman living in Scotland, you might ask why I’m so worried about Donald Trump. I don’t live in America and I won’t be directly affected by his Presidency. But the USA is the UK’s closest ally, and with the rise of nationalism in both nations (shout out to Brexit), we are likely to be affected more than we realise. Not to mention that the USA is the most powerful and influential country in the world.

Trump’s record on women’s rights is dire. Like many Republicans he is pro-life – or as I prefer to call it, anti-choice – with regards to abortion. He wants to completely ban abortion, with exceptions only in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life. He hates the idea that Planned Parenthood is government-funded, and basically wants women to lose the majority of our reproductive rights. He has repeatedly objectified women publically and on camera, and has been taken to court for rape and sexual assault before. Many of his cabinet members share these kinds of sexist and outdated views, which is why this march is so important.

The Women’s March this weekend signifies a sort of peaceful solidarity, uniting against fascism and conservative views that hinder women’s lives. It may be the calm before the storm, but maybe we just need to fight harder for our rights in the wake of the storm.

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