Feature image via shutterstock.com
Header by Rory Midhani
We’ve known for some time now that a Trump presidency would be bad news for science. The man believes global warming was “created by and for the Chinese” to hurt American manufacturing, and has spent the past couple years of his life to campaigning on a racist, misogynistic, anti-science platform. His cabinet picks hold deeply anti-science viewpoints, and not a single one of them appears to value truth or evidence above political dogma and career advancement.
Trump has been in office barely seven days now, and his administration’s anti-science activities alone are absolutely horrifying. With everything else going on, it’s hard to stay focused on a single area of atrocity — but that’s what they want, I think. To overwhelm us and exhaust us with the chaos.
I reject that. Here’s a recap of every anti-science action Trump’s administration made this week and some ways to fight back.
Day 1 – Friday, January 20, 2017
- The National Park Service retweets photos of the lightly attended inauguration. The NPS is ordered by its Washington support office to “immediately cease use of government Twitter accounts until further notice.”
- Immediately following Trump’s inauguration, WhiteHouse.gov is archived as ObamaWhiteHouse.gov. Following the transition, no content relating to LGBT issues or climate change were anywhere to be seen on the new website. The replacement content includes statements that eliminating power plant climate rules, clean water rules and other environmental regulations would “greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.” This is a mischaracterization of the original study.
- Trump reinstates an expanded Global Gag Rule, denying US funding to any international organization that provides information or even so much as mentions abortion.
- Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, issues a memorandum freezing new regulations until the new administration can review them and telling agencies to hold off on issuing any statement “that sets forth a policy on a statutory, regulatory, or technical issue or an interpretation of a statutory or regulatory issue.”
Day 2 – Saturday, January 21, 2017
- The Women’s March on Washington — the largest protest of an incoming American president ever — takes place. Many scientists and engineers are among the crowd, including representation from the group 500 Women Scientists.
- Trump calls National Park Service director Michael T. Reynolds, pressuring him to provide photographs of the inauguration crowd that would prove his (false) belief about the crowd size.
- NPS tweets an apology for the “mistaken RTs.” Meanwhile, an anti-Trump “RealNatlParkService” account springs up and is suspended by Twitter as an impersonation. AltUSNatParkService and NatlParksUnderground are created, among others. There are reports of official agency accounts flickering briefly out of existence over the weekend as well.
- President Trump visits the CIA and issues a weird, rambling speech in which he lies about the crowd size and the weather at Inauguration, insinuates that the US should be starting wars to steal oil from other countries, compares himself to his academic uncle and says “Trust me, I’m like, a smart person.”
- White House spokesman Sean Spicer holds his first press briefing, repeating and embroidering on Trump’s lies about the crowd size at Inauguration.
Day 3 – Sunday, January 22, 2017
- With no public announcement, a freeze is placed on grants and contracts by the Environmental Protection Agency. At the time, the EPA had 600 active contracts, for services ranging from hazardous waste handling to drinking water quality testing.
- The EPA is placed under a gag order.
- The USDA is also placed under a gag order.
- Both agencies, by the way, are going to be hard hit by REINS deregulation. As Heather recently reported, it will “retroactively apply to any regulations passed in the last ten years, meaning Congress can defund hundreds of regulations at one time once the Senate ratifies the bill and President Trump signs it into law.”
- Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway characterizes Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts.” Sales of George Orwell’s 1984 subsequently surge.
- A group of scientists on Reddit band together in the beginning of a grassroots pro-science, anti-Trump movement. Organizers are in the planning phases of a Spring march on Washington now.
Day 4 – Monday, January 23, 2017
- With zero evidence or basis in reality, Trump tells lawmakers that 3 – 5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote.
- Trump signs executive orders for a reversal on the previously halted DAPL and KXL pipelines. Asking agencies to generate new facts due solely to political influence — which is what appears to be happening — is in violation of the Hatch Act.
- The Yankton Sioux Tribe pledges to continue fighting DAPL.
- The CDC quietly cancels a long-planned climate summit. The agency has a history of backing away from potentially controversial research, and it is well known that Trump does not believe in climate change.
- According to Axios investigatory reporting on an “agency action plan” leak, there are $815 million in cuts planned for the EPA.
Day 5 – Tuesday, January 24, 2017
- Trump meets with US automakers, tells them that environmentalism is out of control and promises to cut regulations.
- The National Institute of Health issues a memo interpreting Priebus’ memorandum as a gag order. It had just started testing a Zika vaccine.
- Buzzfeed reports that the USDA has banned scientists and other employees in its main research division, the Agricultural Research Service, from publicly sharing everything from the summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets.
- The USDA gag order is lifted, kind of? There are conflicting messages from the agency, particularly relating to ARS. It’s characterized as a “misunderstanding,” of the sort that happens during every transition period. This is not true.
- Although most attention has been on the USDA, other agencies received the same memo and have failed to revoke it. According to Popular Science, “The Department of the Interior (which includes the National Park Service), the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Health and Human Services (which includes the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health) have each received a similar message. In fact, the only scientific organization that does not seem to have received the gag order is NASA.“
- In an evening interview with NPR, Doug Ericksen, head of communications for the Trump administration’s EPA transition team, says that during the transition period, he expects EPA scientists will undergo an unspecified internal vetting process before sharing their work outside the agency. This is in direct violation of the agency’s current scientific integrity policy.
- Reports surface that the EPA was directed to remove any climate information from its website. Following public outcry, Erikson appears to backtrack on the idea, and members of the transition team are reported to stand down.
- The battle on Twitter continues. While some formerly active government accounts slow to a crawl, Badlands National Park begins tweeting facts about climate change. These are quickly deleted. Death Valley National Park tweets about Japanese American internment.
- Spicer briefs the press and doubles down on lies about the basic facts of the inauguration as well as untruths about “millions of illegal votes” having been cast.
"We want the opportunity they have to prove their loyalty. We are asked to accept a denial of that privilege in the name of patriotism." pic.twitter.com/4JedTyfX57
— Death Valley NP (@DeathValleyNPS) January 25, 2017
Day 6 – Wednesday, January 25, 2017
- ABC News Anchor Davir Muir presses Trump on his false belief that millions of people voted illegally. Trump feels that it does not undermine his credibility when he makes up facts with no evidence.
- The Office of Special counsel issues a letter reminding the administration that government employees cannot be issued any non-disclosure agreements or policies without also being notified of their rights under the Whistle Blower Protection Act.
- Greenpeace activists — including black queer feminist activist, Pearl Robinson — scale a giant crane near the White House to post a large banner reading “RESIST.” They now face charges.
- Trump announces via Twitter than he will be asking for a major investigation into voter fraud — which, again, there is no evidence of. Spicer reveals that the investigation will target only states that voted Democratic.
Day 7 – Thursday, January 26, 2017
- Of fact checkers in the media, Chief White House Strategist Stephen Bannon says, “The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong,” characterizing the media as the “opposition party” to Trump.
- Al Gore announces that he will host a scaled-down version of the now-cancelled CDC climate summit.
- Trump transition chief Myron Ebell shares that he thinks slashing the EPA’s size “by about half would be a good start.”
- In reaction to Trump, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moves the Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds. It is now 2.5 minutes to midnight, the closest the clock has been to Doomsday since both the US and the Soviet Union first began testing hydrogen bombs in 1953.
Let me know if I’ve missed anything and I’ll add it.
Some ways to fight back:
- Read the items above. Pick a target, set a goal, devise your tactics and organize something.
- Submit a comment to the Army Corps in support of Standing Rock and against DAPL. The comment period ends in 24 days.
- Think about how to reach people you haven’t reached out to before. If you can, have those uncomfortable political conversations. Try to meet people where they are.
- Call your senators to let them know that we can’t trust fossil fuel insiders and climate deniers with the health of our families and our environment.
- If you have a STEM background, check out 314 Action and consider whether you might run for political office
- Sign this Change.org petition to ungag the EPA. Then call your senators and reiterate your concerns. Put them in your phone. There’s no such thing as calling them too much.
- Check out the Scientists’ March For Washington. You don’t have to be a scientist to be involved; it’s for anyone and everyone who values empirical science. They’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, and the tentative march date is the first weekend in March.
Add your own suggestions in the comments.
Notes From A Queer Engineer is a recurring column with an expected periodicity of 14 days. The subject matter may not be explicitly queer, but the industrial engineer writing it sure is. This is a peek at the notes she’s been doodling in the margins.