In case you haven’t heard, here are some terrifying (and a couple uplifting) things that have happened this week to American science:
- The CDC decided to cancel its conference on climate change and health without any real reason…
- Many scientific agencies, like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and USDA (U.S. Dept of Agriculture), were put on communication freezes — meaning employees are not allowed to speak to the public about the research that the public funds about the public’s safety (The USDA’s order has now been lifted, but the other agencies remain frozen).
- The administration froze all grants and contracts at the EPA.
- The Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines are going to be built.
- The Badlands National Park twitter account responded to the administration’s ban on sharing news by tweeting out awesome climate science facts, because that Park is a national hero.
- Climate change was removed from the white house website!
- The investigation of Flint’s water crisis was stopped.
- Scientists decided to do a Scientists’ March in response to ^ all of that.
- Greenpeace protested the pipelines in DC.
These attacks on science are not only problematic to me as a scientist, but also as a public citizen. These agencies were formed for the purpose of protecting us: the EPA makes sure we have clean water and air, the USDA makes sure our food is healthy, the NIH deals with medical issues. It is literally their job to inform us of health and science concerns. THAT’S WHY THEY EXIST.
None of these freezes are necessarily surprising, considering the current president’s views on science (he doesn’t like it). He’s a climate change denier (because in our new reality, alternative facts reign supreme over actual truth) and the new director of the EPA doesn’t think human activity is the cause of climate change. The current president and his cronies are deeply invested in the fossil fuel industry, which is dangerous to all of us.
Even more, these freezes are censorship of information that citizens of this country have a right to know about. I mean, the Environmental Protection Agency was ordered to remove their truly amazing site on climate change. It’s informative, it’s public-friendly, and it’s an example of what we as the public have a right to. These freezes are keeping scientists from researching important, timely, relevant science that affects all of us, every day. Though it is common for very short-term freezes to take place during transitions, it isn’t normal for it to happen so quickly and certainly not to this degree. This Gag Order on Science happened basically overnight, with a quick memo. This is unprecedented and it’s deeply alarming for the future of our nation.
With a climate change denier heading our country, we are all unsafe. But we’re not all equally affected. Time and time again, we see that environmental issues most negatively impact poor communities and communities of color. The Dakota Access Pipeline, for example, was rerouted from originally going through a mostly white area because those communities complained.
After the reroute, a potential spill would dirty the water of indigenous communities (many of which in this country already have poor water quality). Studies have shown that air pollution is more prevalent in non-white, poor communities than in white affluent ones. And, though the current president claims otherwise, we know where his interests lie — with affluent whites and big businesses like the fossil fuel industry.
Our public health is at risk with the current president’s dedication to fossil fuel and his lack of commitment to reversing the effects of climate change. What exactly is at risk? Longer allergy seasons, deaths from overheating, more frequent outbreaks of disease, poor air quality, etc etc etc. Even worse is that he’s risking our public health while also making it harder to have health insurance. “Can’t breathe? Can’t afford health insurance? Good.” – not a direct quote, but maybe it is #alternativefacts .
This isn’t a debatable issue or opinion. Environmental change and the presence of pollutants in our air and water will affect you whether you support the current president or not. Climate change is real regardless of what the current president claims or his removal of important government agencies and funding for research. It harms us all and we all have the right to know how & why it’s happening. It is our duty as American citizens to stand up for what is right and demand open communication between the government and the public. Do not sit idly by as the current president plays with our future.
Our lives are at risk and our futures are in jeopardy. Call your representatives, inform others, and share this widely — don’t let science fiction become reality. RESIST.