The President’s green comedy routine

A token, triumphal green moment for a president and party who just might need such a thing in an election year.

Last Tuesday, we almost had a breakthrough moment on the environment.


With Interior Secretary David Bernhardt by his side, the 45th President prepared to set pen to paper on a bipartisan, nearly unassailable conservation bill to protect National Parks and other wild lands.

And then comedy broke out.

As God as my witness, President Donald J. Trump, offered soaring rhetoric: "When young Americans experience the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon, when their eyes widen in amazement as Old Faithful bursts into the sky, when they gaze upon Yosemite's — Yosemite's towering sequoias, their love of country grows stronger and they know that every American has truly a duty to preserve this wondrous inheritance."

But wait. When Trump got to the word "Yosemite" in his script, he tripped over it as if it were a word in Esperanto or Klingon. The first try was something like "YOH-seh-might." On the second try, he added a syllable, "YOH-se-ni-might."

Such a kidder.

Dear God, as an inveterate TV watcher, hasn't this man even heard of one of the most precious places on Earth, even if it's in a state run by Democrats? Hasn't he at least heard of Yosemite Sam, the colorful and prominent Westerner who apparently holds naming rights to the place?

Hats off to Sarah Lefton, a digital media creator, who turned Trump's gaffe into an ethnically-themed "Yo, Semite" T-shirt design that's reportedly going viral.

To be sure, the Great American Outdoors Act is a complete outlier for a man who put the "lier" in "outlier." It funds long-delayed maintenance of public lands and permanently renews the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a landmark conservation law first signed by President Lyndon Johnson. The Republican-controlled Senate, where such measures often go to die these days, passed the Act by a 73-25 vote. It was a token, triumphal green moment for a president and party who just might need such a thing in an election year.

But then Trump turned Half Dome into Half-Ass, and Yosemite became "Yoh-se-might"—a name that might sound more at home on a big can of powder in a GNC store. Mitigating factor? Tens of millions of Trump's faithful now hold the unshakeable belief that not only is "Yoh-se-might" correct, but since the days of the Miwok and Paiute nations, it's the only way it's ever been pronounced.

Just about every major news outlet covered the signing. Fox News covered it, well, a tad differently. They didn't find the "Yoh-Se-Mite" gag funny enough to include, but added a howler of their own: "The fishing and gaming industry"was well-represented at the signing, Fox reported. The President's last go-round with the "gaming industry," by all accounts, didn't go so so well.

All of which brings us back to Yoh-so-might. If, as the great documentarian Ken Burns has said, national parks are "America's greatest idea," why does our president not have a clue?

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist. His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences. Contact him at pdykstra@ehn.org or on Twitter at @Pdykstra.

Banner photo: President Trump signs the Great American Outdoors Act on Aug. 4, 2020. (Credit: The White House)

We’re dumping loads of retardant chemicals to fight wildfires. What does it mean for wildlife?

As western wildfires become bigger and more intense, state and federal fire agencies are using more and more aerial fire retardant, prompting concerns over fish kills, aquatic life, and water quality.

As the Caldor Fire roared toward drought-stricken Lake Tahoe in the last days of August, firefighters faced a sobering scenario: Strong winds increased from the southwest, pushing the fire toward populated areas and prompting tens of thousands to flee.

Keep reading... Show less

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Photo by Oz Seyrek on Unsplash

In search of ‘Lithium Valley’: why energy companies see riches in the California desert

Firms say what's underneath the Salton Sea could fuel a green-energy boom. But struggling residents have heard such claims before.

Carbon, caribou and a Dene Tha’ plan to protect a northern Alberta lake

The nation is proposing the first Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area in the province to protect the region surrounding one of Alberta' largest lakes, which stores five times more carbon per square metre than the Amazon.

WATCH: This man is fighting climate change by managing 100,000 acres of forest

Produced by Colby College, this film features conservationist Steve Tatko. Managing over 100,000 acres of Maine forest for the Appalachian Mountain Club, Tatko focuses on techniques that promote natural regeneration rather than planting trees.

Pa. community’s fight against electric lines shows tensions coming with push toward a clean energy future

To achieve a carbon-free electricity sector, the country would need to more than double the power infrastructure it has now in the next decade.

Young people take to the streets of Pittsburgh, demanding climate action

Local students called for the region to end get out of coal, gas and petrochemicals. The event was part of a worldwide student climate strike.