Two weeks ago several high-level federal scientists and policy makers were dismissed from their jobs working on climate adaptation and resilience in Alaska and were assigned to posts not at all related to their expertise or training. As President Trump’s political adviser Steve Bannon in January has frighteningly declared, the dismantling of the administrative state has begun. And it continues as lower level career employees in certain departments (EPA, Dept. Of Interior, NOAA) are shown to the door. With that, our best chance to meaningfully counteract our past sins that contributed to a warming of our climate and the pollution of our soil, waters and air, have come to a screeching halt.
It was hard enough to spring into action to fight against climate change or mitigate its accelerating effects – especially in coastal Alaska — with the previous administration, which was sensitive and responsive to the issue.
Now we have a president who is not convinced that a warming climate is for real but who is also hell-bent on actively supporting pollution and silencing those who worked diligently to tackle and mitigate climate issues.
In this edition of the Nome Nugget, Joel Clement, a scientist and policy maker in Washington D.C. relates how he lost his job and who will be the real loser: the communities that need at some point to relocate like Shishmaref, Shaktoolik and Kivalina. Eventually all coastal dwellers may have to pack up and move closer inland as sea levels rise. When our best and brightest are silenced, reassigned to nonsense jobs and basically coerced into quitting, then government is working against its very own people. And that is not normal. None of what is happening right now is not normal. Please let not lose sight of how unprecedented the actions of our government are right now.
Here is the grim picture the scientist painted in an email to the Nugget: “I will just say that by retaliating against civil servants like me and trying to muzzle and purge scientists and experts, the Trump Administration is reducing the federal government to the point where the health and safety of many more Americans will be put at risk. Let’s hope that if enough of us speak out we can reverse these thoughtless actions, protect the culture and livelihoods of Alaska Natives, and look ahead to a safe and prosperous future in the 21st century.”
Safe and prosperous. That will take a lot of doing, given our current challenges. —D.H.—