President Trump was asked at the G7 summit in France on Monday whether he had any general thoughts to share about climate change. Here is some of what Trump—who skipped a summit meeting on climate change earlier today—said in reply (emphasis mine):
I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet. I’ve made that wealth come alive...we are now the number one energy producer in the world, and soon it will be by far...I was able to get ANWR in Alaska, could be the largest site in the world for oil and gas...It’s tremendous wealth...and I’m not going to lose that wealth. I’m not going to lose that wealth on dreams, on windmills, which, frankly, aren’t working too well.
Trump went on to call himself an “environmentalist” because he’s done a lot of environmental impact statements for his properties, and said that we have to “maintain” this “incredible place that we’ve built.” But he concluded:
We’ve become a much richer country and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing, because that great wealth allows us to take care of people. We can take care of people that we couldn’t have taken care of in the past, because of the great wealth. We can’t let that wealth be taken away. Clean air, clean water.
As with many Trump answers, this one has a welcome honesty to it. Trump is plainly saying he cares more about extracting wealth from the environment than he does about protecting it.
It is the same thinking behind the fires in the Amazon rainforest which have so appalled the world. There, loggers, farmers, and cattle ranchers, backed by the Brazilian government, have decided they would rather hasten the literal downfall of the planet rather than cut themselves off from a source of potential profit. It’s also not so far away from Barack Obama’s insistence that, even as he made some moves to mitigate climate change, the American fossil fuel industry should continue to grow.
We can see quite clearly in all of these situations that the imperatives of our economic system as it is currently constructed are inherently at odds with what we actually need to do to fight climate change. As long as our world is oriented towards the pursuit of profit and growth above all else, we are doomed. Capitalism is going to kill us all if we let it, and anyone watching Trump say, calmly and without shame, that he will sacrifice the planet for the sake of American dollars should understand that.