As a Master’s Degree student studying Life Sciences Communication, recent political events have lit within me a fire that continues to rage. People before have asked me what exactly the purpose of my program is and now I can say with confidence: To combat and counter attacks on science, and to keep the public aware of the importance and impact of scientific research.
When I heard yesterday that the Trump administration removed any mention of climate change from the EPA website, ordered a freeze on EPA spending, and put a gag order on media releases from the administration (among other departments as well I read today), I was terrified. It’s already well-known that Trump thinks climate change is a hoax made up by the Chinese government, but this talk of censorship enraged me. I was inconsolable. It is one thing to personally deny a well-established event supported by the majority of scientists, but it is quite another to control their freedom of speech and right to inform the public about events that affect them. According to the New York Times, a temporary gag order on public relations is common when a new president is inaugurated, but what still bothers me is the intentional removal of mentions of climate change policy.
In response to the news yesterday, I did what went against everything I’ve learned about effective science communication: I lashed out on Facebook and shook my finger at Trump supporters. Normally someone who is composed and rational, this was the proverbial straw that broke me.
It is exhausting to watch someone who has promoted sexism and bigotry (which is atrocious enough as it is) also dismiss established facts in favor of “alternative facts” because science does not support his political agenda. It is inciting to watch the man who was assigned to be the head of the EPA point blank refuse to answer Bernie Sanders when he asked him: 1) Does he believe climate change is caused by humans? 2) What has he done to stop fracking in Oklahoma?
As someone passionate about science and science research, I am sick of being patient, of being calm, of being told to “wait and see what happens.” It has been less than a week since the inauguration, but already this presidency has brought out the worst in me as a science communicator. Science has always been political to some degree, but recent events have made me feel like me and my profession are being personally attacked.
How, as scientists, science communicators, science enthusiasts, or intelligent people who understand the importance of scientific research, do we move forward? In an age of climate change denying politicians who threaten to silence researchers, how do we fight without lowering ourselves to their levels?
Climate change is real whether or not you believe it. This won’t change even if the president denies it, cuts funding for research it, or takes mentions of it off the EPA website. We need to come together and fight for science, for facts, and for intelligence. I personally, pledge to never become silent about things that matter. I hope you don’t either.