Trump's War on Knowledge
Donald Trump hates facts that contradict his beliefs so he and his posse have been waging a quiet war on scientific facts by removing data from government websites. Without ready access to the data that taxpayers have paid for, Americans are less able to know the truth and defend it and Trumpco can more easily grow his regime of delusion in which whatever he says becomes the new reality. Many Americans are fine with this. They feel scared, angry and confused and want someone to make it all better and give them hope. They will happily march to their doom as loyal Trumpets because he mirrors their feelings and offers hope. The facts be damned. Facts are essential to civilization and a civil society. They are also critical for our future survival. Lack of facts kill. When George W. Bush attacked Iraq it was based on a lack of truth and the promotion of lies that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was behind the attacks of 9/11. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people died and the seeds of ISIS were sown because Bush and his gang of liars were not shouted down. Trumpland is a dangerous place to be because it is not reality-based and serves only an evil elite that believes that the American people are stupid. They want to make us even more stupid by denying us access to accurate information. Some Americans are taking steps to push back and make critical public information public once again. The Center for Biological Diversity, along with noted conservation biologist Stuart Pimm and the Center for Media and Democracy, recently launched an effort to prevent hundreds of environmental data sets on government websites from being removed by the Trump administration. To preserve or resurrect what has already been removed by the administration, the centers and Dr. Pimm submitted three separate Freedom of Information Act requests for data sets to eight federal agencies: the Army Corps of Engineers, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and the departments of agriculture, commerce, energy and interior. Under the Freedom of Information Act, when federal agencies receive requests for the same records three or more times, they must make the records freely available to the public on their websites, a rule known as “the Beetlejuice provision.” Of course not all agencies comply with the law and have to be sued to force compliance.
“By removing or hiding hundreds of data sets containing critical information about the climate, wildlife and the health of our oceans, Trump and his cronies are blatantly trying to conceal the truth from the American people,” said Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Thankfully our scientists have the Freedom of Information Act to keep this vital information in the light of day.” The legal requests seek hundreds of data sets on energy usage, renewables, oil and gas projections, coal reserves, climate data, sea-level rise, human population, environmental justice and the status of scores of endangered and threatened species and other wildlife. More specifically, they seek information relating to conservation of aquatic systems, residential energy consumption and Endangered Species Act “Section 7” consultations, a step taken by federal agencies to avoid jeopardizing listed species. Media outlets have reported on the loss and vulnerability of federal data relating to some of today’s most pressing environmental issues, pointing out the disappearance of data sets from agency websites under the Trump administration and documenting scientists’ efforts to save them. “The U.S. government produces and maintains some of the most important information that scientists use in their research,” said Dr. Stuart Pimm, a Duke University professor and research scientist — and a founder of conservation biology — and the second requester of data. “Along with the Herculean efforts of volunteer scientists around the country, I’m doing what I can to protect this information because it’s critical these data remain available to academic institutions for scientists and future generations.” With the recent FOIA requests, the centers and Dr. Pimm are invoking a provision of the Freedom of Information Act that was part of the 2016 amendments to the Act designed to ensure free public access to information on agency websites. They have requested data covering, among other subjects, preservation of species monitoring data and surveys, water quality and flows, weather patterns, sea-level rise and energy production (such as oil and gas well data and coal reserves). “In dark times such as these, thank goodness for the Freedom of Information Act,” said Nick Surgey with the Center for Media and Democracy, the third data requester. “Because we have the law on our side, Trump and the people hostile to agency missions he is installing in the federal government will not be allowed to keep this important information from public view.”
This tactic may work and it may not. Many agencies have failed to abide by the law and have tried various methods to avoid releasing documents. Hopefully, Trump will not dismantle the FOIA.