Rose-Walter’s Prize Winner Criticizes Trump on Environmental Policies

Jacob DeCarli ‘22, Managing Editor

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2019 recipient of the Rose-Walter’s Prize for Environmental Activism Joel Reynolds presented his criticisms of President Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. environmental protections and stressed to the audience that “all of us have to worry about the future of our democracy.”

President Margee Ensign introduced the audience with background information of the Rose-Walter’s Prize, and Kendra Beever ’20, a Baird sustainability fellow and waste minimization intern, welcomed Reynolds.

The first part of Reynolds’ lecture focused on the Trump administration’s behaviors towards reducing sustainable practices and removing key environmental legislation. “Today, these are hard times [that are] unprecedented in many ways,” Reynolds said and continued that “what we are seeing today at our top levels of federal government isn’t normal and isn’t acceptable.” He then explained that the NRDC sued the Trump administration 95 times with 54 suits won by the organization. According to Reynolds, a “second trump term can get a lot worse” due to proposed changes and defunding of the clean water and air acts. 

Reynolds then recited reports from the United Nations of increasing temperature changes, increasing sea levels and mass extinctions of wildlife species. “We have to act now” Reynolds stressed to the audience due to the “long-term deadly effects on ecosystems […] and human well-being.”

The second part of Reynolds’ lecture informed the audience on proposed construction of Pebble Mine on the Bristol Bay water shed in Alaska. He said that the construction is an “environmental issue, a human rights issue and a food security issue,” due to a large percentage of fresh-water supply that could be in danger from contamination and depletion. The construction, according to Reynolds, will have a negative impact on salmon resources because the Bristol Bay produces 50 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon resources and is an “economic powerhouse,” providing 14,000 jobs and generating over $1.5 billion in revenue. He also explained that 65 percent of Alaskan citizens oppose the mine’s construction and said that this is “overwhelming” due to Alaska’s strong Republican population. “This is a project we are determined to beat” said Reynold’s on behalf of the NRDC.

Many students and faculty in attendance represented science departments, specifically in environmental studies and environmental science. However, there were students of other majors in attendance as well. Reactions to Reynold’s lecture were positive. According to Zane Saxton ’23 he enjoyed the lecture because he learned new information about the topic. “I never heard Pebble Mine and this seems like a pretty big issue that I should be aware of,” he said. Shane Coll ’23 said he enjoyed the wide range of topics presented by Reynolds. “I’m an avid hunter and fisherman,” he said, “so it really hit home for me.” 

Other students appreciated the policy aspect of Reynold’s lecture. Clara Roth ’21, a member of the President’s Commission on Environmental Sustainability, said that it also important to focus on “environmental justice aspects as well which were brought up in the question-answer session.” Environmental science major Riccardo Miller ’20 said the lecture was “eye-opening” because “it was really cool to hear first-hand from a litigator how he goes up against not just the Trump administration but administrations in general to combat climate change.” 

Reynolds, the director & senior attorney of the natural resources defense council (NRDC), presented his lecture titled “Crisis: Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, and the Pebble Mine” on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. to a 200-person audience made up of Dickinson College students, alumni, faculty and staff. The ATS lecture was available for live stream viewing, and Ensign remarked that Sam Rose ’58 was part of the live-stream audience. Honorary members in attendance included Julie Walters, Jacob Sherr, international attorney for the NRDC, and John Adams, former executive director of the NRDC. Reynolds is the eighth person to win the award. 

The NRDC is a non-profit environmental advocacy organization with international status. Notable programs of the organization include the “Climate and Clean Air Program” and the “Save the Bees Initiative,” according to the official NRDC website.