Last Week Was Rough

Moving forward and creating change is only possible if we use knowledge and reason to work through the frustration and anger. Moving forward and creating change is only possible if we use knowledge and reason to work through the frustration and anger….[deep breaths]

As a female scientist in the early days of her career, at what is just the start of the “Trump era,” all I can say is: Shit.

Within his first 72 hours in the Oval Office Trump came on strong, like a creepy dude in a bar or an aggressive case of poison ivy.

I’m upset, but more confused than anything else. How could this happen? How could the country I’ve always loved so much be headed in such a racist, suppressive, and by and large dangerous direction? These issues have always existed to some degree in this country, but why is the Trump administration now making it seem like that’s okay? Like racism is founded on anything but ignorance and misplaced fear? Bigots from all walks of life are crawling out of their holes to show their true colors, and let me tell you, those colors are not patriotic.

I could go on and on about how one of Trump’s first actions was to halt the recently instated cut to the FHA mortgage insurance premium that would have saved homeowners hundreds of dollars each year. I could inundate you with information on Trump’s new plan for “the wall.” Remember the massive wall to be built on the US-Mexico border that Mexico was going to pay for? Well, my fellow Americans, plans have changed. You will now be paying for the wall, and can look forward to a possible reimbursement in the future. But have no fear, says Trump, “There will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form.” Feel better?

I could drone on about everything from changes in trade policies to the ongoing treatment and criminalization of certain immigrant groups, and the detainment of refugees, but my expertise does not lie in any of those areas. Although it can be somewhat cathartic to rant, my reason for writing this piece moves beyond my anger, because being mad will only get you so far. We need to take action, and as a scientist and aspiring science journalist my first action is to inform and hopefully educate anyone who will listen.

If you are a Trump supporter and are reading this, please keep reading. Just because you voted for Trump does not mean you have to defend his every decision, and it does not mean that his actions shouldn’t concern you, as they may even directly impact you. I only ask that you keep an open mind.

Healthcare

Do you and your family make up a portion of the 20 million Americans relying on The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare)? Then Trump’s attempt to repeal Obamacare should be of serious concern to you.

Enacted in 2010, Obamacare was designed to increase the affordability of health insurance, lowering the uninsured rate. By 2014, over 10 million more people had insurance coverage. The largest insurance coverage increases were in rural, less economically prosperous areas, including Arkansas, Nevada, Kentucky and West Virginia (all of which voted Trump). Recently, an increasing number of studies have shown the absolute necessity for Obamacare in poorer coal mining communities, where black lung survivors make up a significant portion of the population.

If the Trump administration has an equally beneficial plan that is designed to also serve those communities, I am all ears, yet as of now nothing appears to be set in stone. With no constructive plan in motion, threatening to roll back Obamacare instills fear, not hope for a “greater America.” We need a concrete plan that is designed with the populations who need it most in mind.

Censoring environmental concerns

When the National Park Service Twitter account retweeted a picture of crowd comparisons from the 2009 versus the 2017 presidential inauguration, they were instructed to stop tweeting, and to wait for guidance from the Executive branch until after the weekend. On Saturday, the National Park Service rescinded their tweet, calling it “mistaken.”

Can I just say, thank you thank you thank you unofficial National Parks Twitter, for keeping freedom of speech and a respect for science and the environment alive.  nps-unofficial-twitter

 Speaking up for the environment and human health

We are all here, in good enough health to be perusing this article, in part because of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA was created in 1970 in response to concern about environmental pollutants and their affects on the health of the American people. The environmental movement, however, began almost a decade prior to the induction of the EPA, coinciding with the release of Rachel Carson’s 1962 novel Silent Spring. In Silent Spring, Carson exposed the terrifying consequences of using the pesticide DDT. DDT was developed at the start of World War II, and was quickly shown to be the most effective pesticide known to mankind. Although it worked miraculously in terms of extermination, with the inventor of DDT even winning a Nobel Prize, it was later found to be stored in the fatty tissue of animals, including humans, causing genetic damage, ultimately resulting in cancer and other health issues. DTT remains in the environment, contaminating water and food supplies, making its way into people’s bloodstreams. One of the EPA’s first actions was banning DDT, and the recovery of nationally treasured species, including the bald eagle, came soon after.

Once the EPA got started, they made dozens of environmental decisions that helped the United States navigate away from its dangerous course toward environmental collapse. In 1970, the Clean Air Act led to newly set standards for air quality and auto emissions. In the first couple of decades, the Clean Air Act was reported to have prevented over 200,000 premature deaths by reducing the concentrations of sulfur, lead, and other pollutants in the air. Soon after, the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act outlawed use of lead-based paint in homes, on toys, and on baby furniture, protecting children from the developmental defects that result from lead exposure. In 1972, both the Great Lakes Quality Agreement and Ocean Dumping Act came into affect, protecting our precious fresh and ocean waters from chemical pollution. In 1978, the EPA invoked the phaseout of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), molecules that destroy the ozone layer and thereby promote global warming. I think you get the point: The EPA’s crucial role in keeping a clean, safe, environment cannot be over looked.

During the Obama administration, the Comprehensive Plan for Climate Change was created, as well as the Clean Power Plan. These plans were created to cut carbon pollution in the United States, while promoting global consciousness, as one of the goals was to provide assistance to other countries that were also moving in this more sustainable direction.

At a minimum, these plans were created to keep major corporations in check and to protect you and your family from harmful chemicals and pollutants. Trump has already delayed thirty regulations approved by the Obama Administration, one of which is the greenhouse gas emissions policy, created to support use of renewable fuels and decrease greenhouse gases. An important reminder: There is no such thing as “clean coal” and no, I’m not using “alternative facts,” I’m using actual environmental research.

Trump signed a memorandum ordering the Secretary of the Army to expedite approval and construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), disregarding the months of protesting over the pipeline late last year, and the U.S. Army’s ultimate decision to end the project. Just as a reminder, the 1,100 mile Dakota Access Pipeline would lead to the destruction of many of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s sacred sites, and would likely contaminate the primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

As if the DAPL memorandum wasn’t enough, Trump also signed a memorandum inviting TransCanada, the company that hoped to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, to resubmit an application and revive the project. The Keystone XL Pipeline was vetoed by Obama in 2015. I’m sure Trump’s personal stake of $250,000 or more invested in TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. (as of 2015) is insignificant and purely coincidental.

On Tuesday, Trump ordered the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to stop corresponding with any public officials and hold off on any new policies. The cutting-edge research at the NIH focuses on improving quality of life through disease treatment and prevention. When scientists aren’t allowed to do their jobs, the public suffers.

When will old white dudes stop trying to regulate my vagina?

We’ve seen that Trump doesn’t respect women, having admitted (without remorse) to sexually assaulting them, so really none of the following should come as a shock.

On Monday, Trump reinstated a ban that keeps American foreign aid from health providers abroad who discuss or perform abortions. In other words, poorer, less developed countries who offer abortion counseling, or advocate for the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion, will no longer be funded.

Oh you were raped? Sorry, but you’re going to need to have that rapist’s child.

In other news, Republicans just pushed a bill through congress that criminalizes abortion at any stage, under any circumstance.

Again, here are some possible scenarios: You want to have a child via IVF because you or your husband are having issues with infertility? Suck it up, not everyone was meant to have children. You’re at a severe health risk if you carry the baby to term? Eh, you’ve lived enough years at this point.

protectinglife_590_438

Comic by Nick Anderson

Have the decades of medical advances in reproductive biology meant absolutely nothing? Right now, it appears they have not.

Where does it stop? And when will regulations on women’s health by old white men end?

It hasn’t even been seven business days…

For those of you who say Trump’s immediate desecration of the country we hold so dear is a testament to his “hard work attitude” and ability to “get things done,” here’s what I have to say: Yes, you are right, he certainly does get things done– that serve his own interests and not the interests of the country as a whole. Remember that when you’re paying for the US-Mexico wall or your illegal abortion.

Although the administration can’t immediately push forward much of I’ve mentioned at this point, this is a terrifying precedent to set. It’s hard to imagine things getting much worse, but then again, I wake up up every morning and am shocked by the latest piece of news.

Oh sorry, did I mention Trump officially took over the nuclear codes? See, I knew there was something I was forgetting.

In the last thousand or so words I’ve only scraped the surface of what has gone on over the last few days, and what’s most terrifying is that this is only the start. And this is coming from a straight white woman, so let’s take a moment to appreciate that I have it easy compared to most.

So, what can we actually do?

The women’s marches throughout the country on January 21st were incredible. If you haven’t seen footage from all over the world, please check it out. Viewing those images led to the only good tearing up I’ve done in months. Even with millions of people marching worldwide, no arrests were reported, reflecting the peaceful resistance of those marching.

womens-march-1

San Diego Women’s March January 21, 2017

I participated in the San Diego Women’s March and was blown away by the strength, passion, and above all else, positivity of those who were marching. I saw families with young children who were holding up signs about treating each other with kindness, I witnessed strangers hugging, and I felt truly optimistic for the first time since November 8th.

womens-march-2

San Diego Women’s March January 21, 2017

I wish one march was enough to create permanent change, but there is still so much work to be done.  Moving forward, we must maintain this united front, and find intelligent ways to resist an antiquated government. We’re all better than this.

As Aziz Ansari so poignantly stated the day after Trump’s inauguration:

“If you’re excited about Trump, great. He’s president. Let’s hope he does a great job. If you’re scared about Trump and you’re very worried, you’re going to be O.K., too. Because if you look at our country’s history, change doesn’t come from presidents. Change comes from large groups of angry people. And if Day 1 is any indication, you are part of the largest group of angry people I have ever seen.”

So yes, I do believe that change can and will happen, but only if we stay alert, stay active, and show the same love and compassion to one another that we did on January 21st.

Here are some ways that we can not only survive the Trump presidency, but combat the hate that has been shown to come  along with it:

Stay informed

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/01/tracker-we-re-letting-you-know-when-trump-s-cabinet-nominees-talk-about-science-and

Stay Involved

Contact your representatives:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

https://www.niacaction.org/call-congress-stop-discrimination-based-on-national-origin-religious-beliefs/

Demonstrate

March for science! http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/25/politics/scientists-march-dc-trnd/index.html

March for the climate! https://peoplesclimate.org

[This is just DC, check for your local demonstrations as well]

March for LGBTQ rights! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/national-pride-march-on-washington-joins-forces-with-major-lgbtq-festival_us_5889f826e4b0024605fde12c

Donate!

Help the groups who need it most:

Planned Parenthood: https://secure.ppaction.org/site/Donation2?df_id=12913&12913.donation=form1

The ACLU: https://action.aclu.org/donate-aclu?redirect=donate/join-renew-give

The International Refugee Assistance Project: https://irap.urbanjustice.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=13

The Natural Resources Defense Council: https://www.nrdc.org/actions

The Sierra Club: https://vault.sierraclub.org/ways-to-give/#donate-maintab

GLAAD: http://www.glaad.org/support

The Trevor Project: https://give.thetrevorproject.org/checkout/donation?eid=63307

These suggestions are just the beginning– I plan to add to this list as comments and suggestions roll in.

Stay safe, stay smart, and never stop asking questions.

-Sam