- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2017

With their traditional political power diminished, environmental activists have launched an unprecedented guerrilla warfare campaign against President Trump — and analysts say such efforts will only grow in intensity over the coming weeks and months.

Powerful environmental organizations, along with sympathizers inside the federal government referring to themselves as the “resistance,” last week used tried-and-true protest tactics coupled with a savvy social media campaign to take direct aim at Mr. Trump’s environmental agenda. Activists from the leading environmental group Greenpeace hung a banner reading “Resist” from a crane near the White House, a type of protest that green activists commonly use.

That demonstration was only one part of a multipronged strategy. Environmentalists and their allies launched dozens of “alternative” Twitter accounts to combat the administration’s purported war against the science of climate change. Alt Twitter accounts for the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, the National Park Service and other agencies have gained hundreds of thousands of followers over the past few days.

Analysts say the moves offer a preview of the 21st-century resistance strategy that environmentalists will use against Mr. Trump throughout his administration, especially if he continues to prioritize fossil fuel development and oil and gas pipelines ahead of efforts to combat climate change.

The environmental protests come against the backdrop of broader demonstrations against Mr. Trump, including large-scale gatherings at airports across the country after the administration suspended immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations.

“The opposition facing the new Trump White House is unlike we’ve seen publicly in recent memory. President George W. Bush faced friction with those who considered his presidency illegitimate due to the way he won in 2000, but nothing this large or sustained,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston who studies presidential politics.

“The larger the resistance, in just about any form, the more difficult it is for the White House to control the narrative,” he said. “The Trump White House’s policies are controversial enough that losing control of the message risks igniting serious opposition.”

Environmentalists also hope to capitalize on the success of the women’s march Jan. 21 in Washington, which drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets in opposition to Mr. Trump. Environmental groups are planning their own massive demonstration in the nation’s capital on April 29, arguing that the Trump presidency will galvanize green activists in a manner never before seen in U.S. politics.

“On April 29, it’s going to be much clearer to Donald Trump that he won’t drag America or the world backwards on climate without the fight of his life. Our planet is in crisis, and voices from around the nation must and will be heard,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement last week announcing the march.

In just his first week in power, Mr. Trump has taken a variety of moves that have angered environmental activists. His administration scrubbed any mention of climate change from the WhiteHouse.gov website and reportedly barred the EPA and other agencies from speaking to reporters.

The president also took executive action reviving both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines — projects that have come under massive environmental opposition for years.

Mr. Trump’s steps on energy and environment — expected to be just the first in a series of moves to promote fossil fuel development and reverse much of the Obama administration’s global warming agenda — sparked a backlash on the president’s favorite medium: Twitter.

The first salvo in the Twitter war came with the launch of an AltUSNatparkService Twitter account, after the administration temporarily suspended the official National Park Service’s Twitter account.

The account, which now says it is run by nongovernment individuals but initially was cast as a forum for disgruntled federal employees to vent against Mr. Trump’s environmental policies, has amassed at least 1.2 million followers.

Similar accounts include AltNASA, purported to be the “unofficial resistance team” of NASA employees, though that account, too, now says it is run by a U.S. citizen “not affiliated with any federal agency.”

The alternative accounts have become key weapons against Mr. Trump, though the president has avoided clashing with them directly on the social media forum.

“As hard as this is for some people to hear, we have to put planet before country. We don’t get to file bankruptcy when we destroy Earth,” the account @altNOAA — the “alternative” page for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — tweeted last week.

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