During the first week of Donald J. Trump as the President of the United States (POTUS), he has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to freeze its grant programs.
These grants are a part of an extensive program that includes funding for research, re-development of former industrial sites and more. They have also been instructed to not discuss this order with anyone else outside the EPA; this information was provided by an EPA staffer anonymously. It’s not clear whether the freeze is temporary or indefinite.
As a result of Trump’s executive order, all supporters of science (as well as actual scientists) are under a fight against his administration. To make matters worse, Trump has approved advances of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. Also, all climate change references have been completely removed from the White House website, with orders for the EPA to follow the same protocol. Even twitter accounts belonging to various scientific agencies are being censored. According to Buzzfeed, scientists from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been put on lockdown and aren’t able to release any information regarding their work to the press.
The departments put on media lockdown include the EPA, the USDA, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Transportation and the National Park Service, which all contain thousands of taxpayer-funded scientists. They were all told to stop any form of communication with the public and the media as well as erase information when it came to their research. Scientists are still being allowed to publish their work in scientific journals, but any other reference to their work in another form has been banned. For instance, photographs, fact sheets, news releases and social media content (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) has been prohibited.
The media blackout isn’t too surprising since these agencies were increasing their investigations into climate change and environmental protection under the Obama administration. It’s very difficult to prevent scientists from researching their work on a particular topic, but the fact they can’t even tweet about it is alarming the public. This has many worried because the U.S. prides itself in its democracy, and yet scientists are being banned from talking about their research. However, agencies like the ones mentioned are headed by the Executive Branch and are subject to obligations made by the president. It appears that the Trump administration is hoping that the public will stop paying attention to the news of global warning and the deteriorating environment.
Scientists are responding against Trump’s orders quickly through protests, open letters, salvaging their data, creating other twitter accounts and more. Multiple organizations are planning to mobilize crowds in major cities for a “People’s Climate March” on April 29 in Washington D.C., and everywhere else around the country to demonstrate against Trump’s recent environmental policies. This is the latest action following the Women’s March that happened on Saturday, January 21. The People’s Climate March will take place just one day before Trump’s 100th day in office, making the event even more significant. They’re making it clear that they will not be silenced.