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Editor's Note: 'Draining the swamp' by killing it

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THE PRINT edition of Connect hits stands on March 1. It's forecast to be in the mid-80s on that day.

In my yard, the camellias, the azaleas, the redbuds, and the blueberry bushes are all in bloom simultaneously.

It’s all very, very pretty.

It’s just not supposed to be this way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying it. But I’m enjoying it knowing that come June or July, we are likely in for several brutally crushing months which won’t be anywhere near as much fun and pleasant outside as the past few days have been.

That’s the nature of climate change. Like the proverbial frog in the pot, you don’t notice the water’s coming to a boil until it’s too late.

February is my birthday month, and I’m accustomed to it being a little chilly. I even kind of like it that way.

But local weather guru Pat Prokop says February 2017 has averaged about seven degrees higher than normal.

One generally expects February to be a bit challenging weather-wise. This year, it felt more like April or May.

And April and May will probably feel more like August and September.

And August and September will probably feel like........?

This is the flip side of the tired, “If this is global warming, I want more of it” punchline: The summers get much hotter, too.

It’s a particularly prevalent and specious myth that “it’s always been this hot in Savannah.” No, it hasn’t.

Growing up here, we generally could depend on a couple of summer weeks in the 90s, and that would pretty much be it. Last year, however, virtually the entire summer had highs in the 90s, straight on through. This is unprecedented in living memory.

This summer I’ll be shocked if we don’t have several weeks of 100+ days. That’s already what summers are like in much of Texas these days. A friend who lives there says simply, “We just don’t go outside during the day.” He’s describing our future.

Also this week, President Trump unveiled more of his plans — “plan” used loosely in this context — for the future of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Under the direction of his new EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, that agency will dramatically curtail not only its suite of individual regulations — such as those governing coal ash and discharge into waterways — but its entire regulatory footprint, including perhaps the for-its-time groundbreaking (and extremely effective) Endangered Species Act.

Plans may even include an effort to abolish the 47-year-old department, signed into being by Richard Nixon, entirely.

One of the stated goals, in addition to “cutting red tape” and “eliminating burdensome regulation” is to clear budget space for a big military spending increase. The question is, what will be left to defend when all’s said and done?

If you are still laboring under the understandable but mistaken impression that the Trump administration is half-hearted and unorganized in its efforts, I direct you to the dire images of the past few days of the protest camp at Standing Rock being razed and burned to make way for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Despite the often unprofessional tone of much of this administration’s public commentary, make no mistake: These are serious people. Almost everything they said they would do if elected, they are trying to do.

That said, I’m not necessarily one of the people who blindly supports federal agencies, environmental or otherwise.

After all, the EPA are also the geniuses who helped give us $10 light bulbs that fizzle out after a few weeks.

(Can we just go back to the old bulbs, please? I have one in my backyard lamp that has lasted literally years.)

But in my mind possibly the most pressing and immediate danger from the Trump administration might have less to do with social issues — which is almost all anyone seems to ever focus on — and more to do with its deleterious effect on the environment.

The environment doesn’t get the clicks and pageviews, but if you look closely that is where things are changing the fastest.

While the loosening of federal environmental regulations will probably have the effect of increasing domestic energy production, another obvious result will be the auctioning off of public lands to private industry—long a goal in corporatist circles.

We have enough evidence now to conclude that Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” actually had little to do with corruption per se — a commonly held but erroneous interpretation — but rather with dismantling bureaucracy and regulatory infrastructure.

Turns out the swamp isn’t just a metaphor. The swamps will be drained literally as well as figuratively.

In this fight, as with many these days, one finds unusual teammates.

In Utah, a Republican-led effort to sell millions of acres of federal land to the states — to be then sold to extractive industries — was defeated not by stereotypical green environmentalists, but mostly by hunting and fishing enthusiasts afraid of what the land grab would mean.

(A friend says the mode of thinking in those circles is, “Democrats will take away my guns so I can’t hunt, but Republicans will take away the land I hunt on.”)

Of course, the rapid attainment of U.S. energy independence through increased and streamlined oil production and transport — and all the cheap fossil fuel that it promises — also likely means a speeding-up of the human contribution to climate change.

And climate change is already speeding up so much so fast, that the concerns people have about the Trump administration’s stance on social issues may be rendered nearly moot, as habitats, food chains, and availability of adequate drinking water continue to deteriorate.

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