Everybody's plastic – but I love plastic. I want to be plastic."
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Jun 5 2020 (IPS) - Another episode of the spectacular show that could be called The Greatest Story Ever Told: The Saga of the Trump Presidency, scripted and acted by Trump himself, took place on 1st of June.
As U.S. cities were scenes of demonstrations and looting, President Trump declared himself to be ”the president of law and order” and said he was going to dispatch ”thousands and thousands” of law enforcement personell to Washington, to stop the ”destruction of property”. Meanwhile, tear gas, rubber bullets, shields and horses were used to empty the Lafayette Park in front of the White House from demonstrators. When the coast was clear it was time for the President´s photo-op. With a solemn expression Donald J. Trump walked across the park, between rows of police officers in full riot gear. He positioned himself in front of the boarded-up St. John’s Church. The President was handed a bible, which he raised, pointed to and said ”A Bible”. With a grave face he remained silent for a moment, before continuing: ”We have a great country. That’s my thoughts. Greatest country in the world. We will make it greater. We will make it even greater. It won’t take long. It’s not going to take long. You see what’s going on. You see it coming back.” That was all – bad play-acting, nothing more. No substantial message, no mentioning of the fact that the riots were the result of failed social justice, unequal distribution of wealth and benefits, insufficient and inadequate education, health services and housing, and endemic racism that the richest nation on the planet has been unable to tackle and which have become worse during the inept and reckless Trump administration.
To use church and bible as props is just another example of the Society of Spectacle that the former TV show host is trying to promote while he as U.S. President is serving greed and egocentrism instead of trying to bolster a decent living standard for his compatriots and address the greatest threat to humankind – the collapse of our natural habitat. I doubt if Trump ever read much, or anything at all, in the bible. If he began doing so he would already after the first page find that humans were chosen to ”rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen 1:28). A task that cannot be compatible with the extinction of the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky and every living creature moving on ground. Whatever Trump intended by his bible waiving it could not have been to convey a message to take care of human lives and nature. Donald Trump, self-proclaimed upholder of Christan faith, is among other things a great supporter of plastic, a product that after having been popular for eighty years now is threatening to choke the world to death.
In 1869, a New York firm offered USD 10,000 to anyone who could find a substitute for ivory. Winner was a certain John Wesley Hyatt, who for the first time in human history invented a material unconstrained by the limits of nature, i.e. it could be manufactured without materials like wood, metal, stone, bone, tusk, and horn. Synthetic polymers were produced through a chemical process based on petrolium as the essential raw material. Plastic could imitate several natural substances and be crafted into a wide variety of shapes. It was improved by several chemists, among them some Nobel Prize winners, and was during the last century marketed as ”the material of a thousand uses”. However, the plastics´ spread all over the world did not begin in earnest until World War II, when the U.S. industry came to consider an increased production of plastic just as important to victory as military success. After the end of the war, production of plastic continued unabated. Considered to be an inexpensive, safe and clean substance, plastic eventually became the symbol of a future of abundant material wealth, finally liberated from the limitations that nature for thousands of years had imposed on human ingenuity. However, the chemical structure of most plastics renders them resistant to processes of natural degradation and they remain as harmful waste for thousands of years.
Approximately, 380 million tonnes of plastic is produced worldwide each year, 10 percent is recycled and 12 percent burned, while at least five million metric tonnes of plastic waste enter the oceans. More than 90 percent of all seabirds contain plastic in their organism and it is estimated that by 2050 it will by weight be more plastic than fish in the oceans.
Compounds used to manufacture plastics are released into air and water and thus enter all organic life, not the least humans. Plastic harms the human endocrine system – phthalates, bisphenol A (BRA), a component used in several plastics, imitates the female hormone estrogen and cause damage to thyroid hormones, which play a vital role in the metabolism, growth and development of the human body. Other chemicals used in the production of plastics cause skin inflammatory diseases and asthma. Children, as well as women in their reproduction age, are most at risk of having their immune- and reproductive systems damaged by hormone-disrupting chemicals used in plastics and regularly released into the environment. Recent studies have also found a link between phthalates and a rise in autism among children.
Unfortunately, plastic production and plastic waste is just one example of our mindless and ruthless destruction of earth’s precious resources. President Trump’s bible waiving in support of his political agenda is both pathetic and offensive. If religion is going to be a useful tool for the salvation of mankind we ought to emphasize compassion and cooperation inherent in the message of several religions, instead of the hate, violence and contempt for others preached by fanatics in support of their own twisted religious ideas. If we were in need of a global faith it ought to be in the form of a religious conviction fomenting support to the protection of the natural resources the entire creation depends upon.
Instead of waiving the bible, and any other scriptures, let us implement what is best for all of us and not follow a leader like Trump who pays homage to greed and profit at the expense of nature. When he in August last year inaugurated a huge plastic producing plant in Pennsylvania, Trump stated that ”elimination of fossil fuels” would not create any new jobs and invited ”the Pennsylvanians” to admire ”his” initiative to bring jobs to ailing areas and consider this to be a valid reason to vote for his re-election as the U.S. president. When asked if it was wise to spend so much money and effort on producing such a harmful product as plastic, Trump did true to form blame China: ”Well, we have a tremendous plastics [sic] coming over from Asia, from China, and various others [sic], It’s not our plastic that’s floating over in the ocean […] No, plastics are fine, but you have to know what to do with them.”
As of May 2020 the Trump administration has rolled back 64 environmental rules and regulations, and an additional 34 rollbacks are in progress. Trump has been a stout supporter of coal and oil production and his administration supports energy development on federal land, including gas and oil drilling in national parks, as well as in nearly all U.S. waters, the largest expansion of offshore oil and gas leasing ever proposed. The Trump administration has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, replaced the Clean Power Plan with something called Affordable Clean Energy Rule that does not cap emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s pollution-control policies have been rewritten, something that in particular benefits the plastic industry, since it eases control of its waste management. Furthermore, the Trump administration has repealed the nation’s Clean Water Rule and is currently proposing significant cuts in funding and changes in the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. When he waves his unread bible, Trump probably thinks it might make voters conclude he is God’s chosen candidate. However, it is actually hard to believe if God intended humans to be ”rulers of the earth” he expected that such a rule would contribute to the destruction of our habitat.
Unlike Trump, as a true God´s servant, Pope Francis in his encyclica Laudato si, Praise Be to You, stated that we currently experience a relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment, caused by apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology and political short-sightedness, and declared: ”Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.” A message that probably would not suite Donald J. Trump while he for political reasons tries to make use of the bible.
Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.