words by Willow Defebaugh
Welcome to The Overview, a weekly newsletter in which Editor-in-Chief Willow Defebaugh offers an expansive look at the latest events in climate and culture—and how it all fits together.
Science (noun): the state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding.
Donald Trump has launched an onslaught of attacks on the environment since taking office, from undoing decades’ worth of wildlife protections and fuel economy regulations to pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord, but perhaps his most egregious offense is his assault on science itself. To wage war on science is to make an enemy of knowledge, and a bedfellow of ignorance.
According to a new report issued by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, Trump has abused federal science to an unprecedented “crisis point.” He has blocked the E.P.A. from releasing information on the climate crisis, dismantled scientific review boards, and edited reports that conflict with his administration’s politics. He has slashed funding for the E.P.A., N.A.S.A., and Department of Energy’s Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and has had all mentions of “climate change” systematically removed from all government websites.
The bipartisan report calls for new standards to be put into place to protect science, warning that Trump’s agenda sets an alarming precedent for the future. “There’s truth and there’s science, and that shouldn’t be swayed by whether someone is a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican,” said former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, one of the report’s authors.
Despite his wife’s anti-cyberbullying agenda, Trump has even come after 16-year-old Greta Thunberg on social media. To her detractors, the activist’s response has not wavered: “This is not opinions or politics. All we’re saying is unite behind the science and listen to the scientists. Either you stand behind the Paris Agreement and the IPCC, or you don’t. In this case there’s no middle ground.”
Meanwhile, scientists are risking their lives for information, well aware that it is the best weapon we have in fighting for the future. Recently, the largest climate change research expedition set out to study the shifting ice in the Arctic. And then there are those working tirelessly toward solutions behind closed doors, such as the team of researchers at Stanford University who have just developed a spray-on gel that could be used to prevent forest fires.
It is a tried-and-true tactic of tyrants and abusers alike to keep individuals in the dark in order to maintain control. If scientists are keepers of knowledge, their role has never been more crucial—nor has ours, to be their champions and defenders. In the face of blatant deception, we must retaliate with the truth, and protect those who have dedicated their lives to it. Amidst deliberate deceit, we must unite behind the science.