On January 23rd of this year, the Trump administration put a gag order on the Environmental Protection Agency, or the EPA, effective immediately. The function of this agency is to make certain that every American is protected from significant risks to their health and to their environment using data from the best available science information. It has been several weeks since the gag order went into effect and it is still in place. Currently, the EPA is banned from sharing any information on social media or with reporters. The administration had originally put a hold on any future grants or new contracts, as well, though it was announced on January 27th that the freeze on all grants had been lifted.
After talking to some college students, the overarching theme is a concern that our environment will take quite a hit during the Trump administration; several students referenced the fact that President Trump said that he believes climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese to hurt manufacturing in the United States. Though Trump made this comment back in 2012, it is clearly not sitting right with people. One of those people is freshman Gabriella Trinidad, who studies at the University of Binghamton. She feels that:
- "A president who doesn't believe in climate change is at the least, extremely dangerous. To say you don't believe in climate change is to deny the existence of science, facts, data, logic, and statistics."
Emma Jones, a first year student at Ithaca College who is studying international business said that she is also quite wary of the fact that President Trump is so quick to deny scientific facts. In addition, placing a gag order on the agency that aided in much of the research we have on events like climate change is also concerning to her. She explained that:
- "President Trump’s ability to censor scientific information to the public is both alarming and infuriating. Science is supposed to be a universal language that goes beyond the barriers of nations. The search for truth is a universal principle that is held in high regard to all of humanity. . ."
Kathryn Cabrera, a freshman majoring in biology at Ramapo College, is also nervous about the gag order on the EPA:
“If people aren’t educated on [climate change] in the next few years, things are gonna go down really quickly.”
Rachel Loia, who is also a freshman at Ramapo College studying biology, said that censorship of the EPA frightens her because it means that:
". . .we’re not getting hard evidence or information on how we should be responding to environmental issues."
Both Cabrera and Loia also said that they are concerned how the censorship will affect their future job prospects in environmental science.
However, Dr. Ashwani Vasishth, associate professor of Environmental Studies at Ramapo College, remains positive about job prospects for college students pursuing work in science-related fields. According to Dr. Vasishth:
"The work of sustainability won’t stop. The scientists at the EPA will continue to do what they do."
When asked how he felt about the gag order itself, Dr. Vasishth replied that he holds mixed feelings.
“It’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because it forces a lot of us to become activists. . .It’s a bad thing because it’s going to put a damper on what the EPA can say to the public, which is a big loss.”
He said that while the EPA is facing censorship, he is putting his faith in corporations to continue to bring environmental issues to the forefront in our country. In recent years, corporations such as Chevron and Johnson & Johnson have come out in support of doing everything they can to slow down climate change.
To top it off, President Trump's nomination for administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has many students worried about the EPA's future. Though during his confirmation hearing, Pruitt acknowledged that climate change is influenced by humankind in some way, it troubles students that he has a history of saying exactly the opposite. In addition, it is widely known that he has received campaign donations over the years from various oil and gas companies who denied climate change existed. Kathleen Stango, a freshman at University of Connecticut, is very nervous about Scott Pruitt precisely for this reason.
- "Companies that refuse to acknowledge the effect of their practices on the environment are major problems. If the leader of the EPA is in their pocket, their falsehoods will remain supreme."
As Attorney General in Oklahoma, Pruitt has sued the EPA 13 times. Four of those suits were in an attempt to block the Clean Power Plan. The legislation is designed to strengthen the trend towards clean, renewable energy by setting a national limit on carbon dioxide pollution produced from power plants. Carbon dioxide has a huge effect on climate change because it contributor to the greenhouse gas effect that is causing Earth's temperature to rise.
Nicole Dannen, a sophomore studying education at University of Connecticut said that if President Trump's administration:
- ". . .wants to help the economy, it would be a smart choice to start looking into renewable energy, because opening up that field could create many jobs as well."
Peyton Ashley, a sophomore at University of Vermont, believes that the Trump administration denies climate change because:
- "No money can be made off of saving the planet. Cabinet members want to make their money during their terms and they don't believe money can be made if people are distracted by the concept and reality of global warming."
In December of 1970, former president Richard Nixon signed the EPA into existence. Eight months prior to that, the first Earth Day was celebrated. Earth Day is meant for people to come out and show their support for environmental issues. This Earth Day, thousands of activists will be marching in Washington, D.C., and other various cities around the country in defense of this agency to show their discontent with this administration’s treatment of science. The March for Science will be historic. College students across the country are hoping that this will show the Trump Administration how seriously they view his censorship towards the EPA, as well as the administration's position on climate change.
Lead Image Credit: Pexels