As the Trump administration moves in multiple ways to remake U.S. environmental policy, the Gender Policy Report’s Debra Fitzpatrick talked with Jennifer Bernstein about her recent piece “On Mother Earth and Earth Mothers: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem” that sparked an important conversation about feminism and environmentalism.

On January 5th, 2018, Secretary Ben Carson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a delay of an Obama-era fair housing rule, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) measure, until 2020. Instituted in 2015, the rule was meant to extend pieces of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) of 1968 that were never actualized—measures that call for communities to review and account for racially discriminatory housing policies or face sanctions such as the loss of community block grants and fair housing aid. Secretary Carson has called the AFFH “failed socialism” and “social engineering,” while U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) characterized its delay as an attack on “minorities, women, families with children, and persons with disabilities.”

Federal infrastructure spending is generally popular across the political spectrum – but with research-informed policy-making, that infrastructure spending could be more effective in achieving multiple policy objectives, including greater gender equity.  A large part of President Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan is slated for improvements to our transportation system.  With significant public and private partnerships envisioned, policy choices at all levels of government and within private sector organizations are important for achieving a more gender equitable public transportation system.

In the U.S., women have historically had less access to cars, but their traditional, gendered family roles have increased their share of household-related trips—think daycare pickup, grocery shopping, and the like. The mismatch between women’s mobility constraints and burdens has, in turn, created significant restrictions in women’s labor market choices. As a result, employed women’s work commute trips were, for decades, shorter in both distance and time than those of employed men.

Of all the actions President Trump has taken in his chaotic first months in office, moving to roll back the previous administration’s environmental and climate rules may have the greatest impact on future generations. Against the overwhelming evidence, scientific consensus, and trends in public opinion, Trump threatens to dramatically reshape climate and environmental policies – many of which will lead to disparate outcomes for men and women. The Trump Administration has made announcements and taken actions to slow or repeal Obama-era environmental protections related to coal mining waste, clean water, oil and gas drilling, vehicle emissions, and power plant carbon dioxide emissions. By some estimates, Trump rolled back 23 environmental rules in his first 100 days. The Administration has also removed information on climate change from EPA websites, proposed a budget that would significantly cut back federal funding for environmental protection and clean energy research, made significant cuts to the scientific advisory boards to the EPA, and nominated individuals with notable anti-environmental regulation positions for key regulatory positions.

“We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor,” said President Trump, in his inaugural address, referring to his plans to invest in infrastructure spending. As with many of his proclamations, it is yet unclear what this means in policy and practice but it is worth looking at some of the possible implications for gender equity.