Sizable and necessary attention has been paid in recent years to the important fight over the impact of dirty fossil fuels on our environment. But it is sometimes overlooked that while oil, gas, and coal are extremely important to life as we know it, none are humanity's most necessary commodity.
That would be clean water.
Far more important than what we burn to create energy, access to clean water is an absolute necessity if we are to survive as a planet. Thus protecting it should be our number-one priority.
Despite the knowledge that clean water is necessary for our survival, we find ourselves struggling against a political administration hell-bent on reversing the very protections of our water hard-won over the past five decades. Even as we slowly and successfully transition away from fossil fuels and towards a renewable energy future, many at the top of the political heap today have lost sight of the reality that without access to clean water, states, nations, and all of civilization will collapse.
On a federal level, the dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency by President Trump and current EPA administrator Scott Pruitt couldn't be more indicting. The dynamic duo has proposed cutting the agency's budget by 31 percent and reducing the number of employees by 3,000. Their teardown is underway with a specific focus on decimating a variety of clean water-related laws currently working to try and keep our drinking water clean. Ironically, when he was candidate, Trump repeatedly said he would make "crystal clear drinking water" a priority. But as president, Trump's actions make it clear that was just rhetoric. He doesn't care a whit about protecting our waters.
One example: In a February executive order, Trump asked the EPA to "investigate" rolling back the Clean Water Rule which, passed under President Obama, gives the federal government power over small waterways to control pollution. According to Pruitt's EPA administrator predecessor Gina McCarthy, the rollback would "deny 117 million Americans the comfort of knowing the waters they rely on for drinking water are not being protected."
At the same time these politicians are working to make our waterways more vulnerable, every week we read of new, horrific degradations of our clean water resources by spills, leaks, contaminations, infrastructure failures, political blindness and corruption, regulatory abandonment and a laissez faire attitude -- an attitude that takes clean drinking water for granted when the truth is it is disappearing daily in front of our eyes.
Compounding that attitude on a global scale is that the impacts on clean water from climate change, droughts, fast-depleting resources, and international political wrangling guarantee that the next wars may not be fought over who controls oil and gas, but who controls clean water.
Update 4/25: A previous version of this story said Trump and Pruitt proposed eliminating 15,000 employees from the EPA, but in fact that's the total number of EPA employees. They proposed reducing the total number from 15,000 to 12,000. Sorry about the mixup.