by Isa Molewijk
There has been a lot of controversy around the appointment of Scott Pruitt as chief of the Environmental Protection Agency. The walking contradiction of an anti-environmentalist in charge of the EPA has been subject to both outrage and applause all over the world. Now Pruitt is under fire for several scandals about his spending habits, like the deal to rent a Capitol Hill condominium linked to a gas industry lobbyist. Headlines like ‘White house considered firing Scott Pruitt’ and ‘Scott Pruitt’s bizarre condo scandal and mounting ethics questions’ scatter the news. Even republicans openly question Pruitt’s legitimacy. Furthermore, it strikes a more fundamental question about the existence of the EPA and the overall United States political system. How could an anti-environmentalist become chief of the EPA in the first place? And who will stand for the environment in times of Global Warming?
In the Netherlands there was a similar case of a ‘walking contradiction’ when anti-immigration-politician Rita Verdonk was appointed minister of Integration and Immigration. With an increasing amount of refugees in Europe from war-torn countries, Verdonk sought to sharpen immigration laws and regulations. During her term (2003-2007) her directness and dehumanizing policies earned her the nickname ‘Iron Rita’. Fortunately, she did not get all policies through. Mainly because of the existence of the Dutch Council for Refugees, a Non-Governmental Organization (although partially government funded) which is leading in expertise and lobbies immigration policies to the House of Representatives. They work close together with the government and when the government does not take their advice they use the media to demand consideration. In every branch of government there is a non-governmental agency that needs to be reckoned with. Their non-governmental nature causes them to solely have their purpose at mind, not worrying about re-election or presidential appointments. In the case of environmental policy, the Dutch government sets the frameworks, but the law is mostly shaped by non-governmental agency Stichting Natuur & Milieu (Nature and Environment).
The Trump Administration and appointment of Scott Pruitt seemed to perish all hope for environmental protection in the U.S. However, it was an executive order from president Nixon that created the EPA in the first place. Maybe Scott Pruitt should not be on fire for non-surprising unethical behavior, but the entire political system that got him to be chief in the first place. Maybe the EPA should have a less governmental nature and there should be more non-governmental third party organizations to be reckoned with. It is time to be creative and demand change in a fundamental anti-environmental system. After all, environmental protection should not be linked to being a republican or democrat: we all breath the same air and we will all suffer the consequences of human-fueled global warming.