Author: eecbblog

Save the EPA – it is patriotic!

oLyhA2EKWe need more, not fewer, regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure clean air, clean water, and minimized risk of contaminants to human and ecosystem health. We do not want severe haze disasters or buildup of smog, harmful organic compounds, sulfur oxides, particulates, radioactive particles, and other pollutants that are prevented from building up via regulations from a functioning EPA.  We also have a right to clean, safe water. Flint, Mich., is still reeling from its water crisis, and unsafe levels of lead continue to turn up elsewhere. Finally, the science of climate change is absolutely clear – greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, and others) are rising, mean global temperatures are rising, extreme weather events are increasing, ice is melting, and sea levels are rising. Climate change is anthropogenic, and we need regulations from the EPA and other agencies to prevent further damage and to stop these dangerous trends.

So here is the call to action from Beth Leger:

You still can’t call the EPA, but you can make online comments. Relevant to us, the EPA opened a call on April 11th for pubic input,  “seeking input on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification.” That’s all it says.

This is an anonymous process, and comments are retained as part of the public record.
You can submit a comment here.
My comment was not brilliant, but it is another NO voice for repealing: “A strong EPA has been responsible for improvements in environmental and human health over the last decades. The American public is extremely supportive of the EPA continuing to do its job, making decisions based on the best available science. Please do not roll back regulations that maintain healthy air and water for all. Voters will hold this administration accountable for deregulations.

The policy makers who are not in DC (very short version of a long document in preparation)

Editorials in the most important scientific journals and the flagship journals for specialized fields in the sciences indicate that most scientists around the world are concerned about what is happening with the Trump administration, as well as the Republican controlled congress and current or upcoming nominees to the courts (including the current SCOTUS nominee). Can scientists make Trump and friends irrelevant? No, not entirely. It is true that science is being attacked by executive orders, proposed legislation, and constitutionality of these orders and planned laws.  Scientists cannot ignore that fact – we need to continue to advise the federal government using as many approaches as possible. However, policy in DC can still be made less relevant if science informs policy for states, private companies, banks, and international organizations that make things happen, such as accessibility of alternative energy or funds for sustainable projects.

Take the negative impacts of anthropogenic climate change, for which there is an incredibly strong scientific consensus. State and local governments, environmentally friendly companies, and even banks can render some federal policies irrelevant by abiding by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement. The most visible example of this is California – Jerry Brown signed unprecedented climate change legislation last September and has vowed to fight back against Trump’s unwise climate denial policies. However, it is conservative CEOs and investment bankers who are leading a quieter push to determine how to minimize financial risks that are associated with climate change. There are myriad examples, such as a task force set up by former NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg that includes some of the world’s biggest banks; this task force focuses on using science to help calculate financial risks of climate change and to prevent those risks through sustainability policies.

When corporations and banks the IFC, UBS and HSBC require sustainability training and enforce strict policies focused on curbing climate change, there is some hope that the climate deniers and aggressive carbon huggers will have no buyers for their misinformation and their reckless pathways towards increased CO2 equivalents in the atmosphere. It is like the coal jobs promised by Trump – if there are no buyers for excess coal or nobody willing to go after new coal leases offered by republicans, their promises are effectively just more hot air.

So what to do? Thank and support state and local politicians that enact tough environmental regulations and protect public lands. Offer advice and support to powerful organizations that have substantive sustainability plans. Support local and private organizations that aggressively pursue alternative energy or that protect threatened species or ecosystems. So there is the classic “act local” advice… eat less meat, ride your bike, get some solar panels, fly less, be kind to others, teach, don’t buy crap at the big department stores, etc. But for scientists, there is another “think global, act local” action that could make a world of difference: invite sustainability directors or teams to come do research with you! And be sure to provide a very well-crafted talk about climate change, evolution, federal funding of research, vaccination, or another aspect of science that is under siege.  Of course, keep calling and writing to federal senators and representatives and keep criticizing the anti-science rhetoric and actions flooding out of DC. But diversifying your methods is always a good thing for science.

References to be provided in the full version…


A team of bankers, doing climate change research

Proposed cuts to the already meager federal funds for science and the arts… and increases in military spending. Why?

Call today: this budget is dystopian – another call to action from Dr. Beth Leger:

This proposed budget represents fear and aggression at the expense of science, the environment, diplomacy, and human health and well being.
It’s a budget made, frankly, by bullies, who think might is right, food comes from the grocery store (21% cuts to Agriculture), pills come in bottles (19% cuts to NIH, what??), clean air and clean water mean nothing (31% cuts to the EPA), and art doesn’t matter (completely cuts funding for these 19 agencies)
Our representatives need to hear loudly that these are not our priorities, in whatever flavor of outrage you are able to muster this morning. 🙂
In our meeting at Heller’s office, it became clear to us that staffers may not necessarily understand how scientists use grants; they may think that we pay our own salaries with them, rather than use them to pursue knowledge and train students/post-docs. A little education on what grant funds do might be in order. Guess what? You are going to pay our salaries anyway. Grant funds just mean we can do our jobs.
Senator Dean Heller (local office): 686-5770   DC office: 202-224-6244
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (local office): 686 – 5750 DC office: 202-224-3542
Representative Mark Amodei (local office): 686-5760  DC office: 202-225-6155

Nevadans at risk in the Trump years: scientists identify 10 key issues.

Dr. Beth Leger is the lead author on this carefully crafted list of issues that require input from real scientists:

We are a group of citizens and scientists who live and work in Nevada. Our work is to understand how Nevada’s natural systems function, and we study water, air, pollution, plants and animals. The knowledge we create allows Nevadans to use their natural resources in a sustainable way. We also educate the next generation of scientists and land managers who will continue to support Nevadans. Our work strengthens Nevada’s economy and legacy and is nationally and internationally recognized and funded.

We deem that the ten issues below put Nevadans at significant risk of losing their way of life, and the future they hope to give their children. We ask for your support in representing these issues at the Federal level in support of Nevada.

  1. Value of basic science –We support increased funding for basic research entities including NSF, NASA, NIH, EPA, and USDA. Every aspect of our lives is affected by basic scientific knowledge and technologies gained through research.
  2. Science as a core of decision making–We oppose the deletion of data, limits on Federal scientists’ communication with the public, and bills like the REINS act that marginalize facts, and expert opinions.
  3. Value of cultural diversity –We oppose policies that limit legal exchange of human resources and ideas. Such policies will fundamentally weaken Nevada’s future and as educators, we are obligated to train our students to live and work in a diverse world.
  4. Climate change – We request support for climate change research, especially for research that aims to understand how water and food supplies will be affected, and how plants and animals will respond. Research that identifies the impacts of climate change will guide strategies to mitigate the effects.
  5. Threats to the mission of the EPA –We request continued support of the EPA’s mission to protect natural systems. The EPA is a science-based regulatory agency that protects multiple ecological services to society (water, food, air, recreation). Maintaining strong environmental regulation is in Nevada’s best economic interest because of the demand for clean energy alternatives.
  6. Public Lands – We support maintenance of the vast public lands of Nevada that provide the backbone of rural economies. They serve as repositories for our natural resources and basis for recreation and future options. We, along with most Nevadans, resist efforts to transfer lands to state/private entities.
  7. Endangered Species Act – We support maintaining this historic legislation that preserves intact and functioning ecosystems, as well as highly-valued plants and animals for future generations.
  8. Alternative energy –We request that our representatives support policies that expand the role of solar, wind, and geothermal power. Investment in these alternative energy sources will bring economic growth to Nevada, and will reducing impacts of climate change. Developing alternative energy sources is key for reducing C02 emissions and human impacts on the climate.
  9. K-12 education funding – We request that our representatives oppose actions that would transfer public funding to private schools. We are concerned about the direction of the Department of Education, and the impact of reductions in funding of public schools on K-12 student performance.
  10. Federal hiring freeze- We request support in eliminating the hiring freeze for land management agencies. Nevada’s lands are managed by Federal agencies, and their employees come from our student population.


Make no mistake, Trump and his thugs are at war with all academics, not just scientists.

Border Crossing Fees

Any academic returning home (if you are from the US) or visiting for a conference or talk should think carefully about how she or he will be treated at immigration. The JPL scientist who was detained and coerced into unlocking his NASA phone when returning from Chile is just one of many examples of how we will be harassed, and it is certainly one of the more gentle methods that will be employed…

Consider what will happen to any hard earned samples that you try to bring back from any part of the world, despite appropriate permits from those countries and from the US. If your research has anything to do with climate change, kiss those samples goodbye. Perhaps the best approach is to keep your collections and your analyses in the countries of origin (or set up base in Europe).

Worse, if you have a name like Rousso or have any kind of connection to “mostly-Muslim” nations, you are a target, especially if you are famous, smart, or don’t like Trump. Here is what happened to the French historian Henry Rousso:

So for those who think that academics should stay away from the political arena to retain a sense of neutrality or that scientists should not march on Washington because it will politicize the sciences, remember that it is too late – all academics have been dragged into the mud and we must use the tools of our trade to fight the fascism that has the entire world on a road to total destruction. Whether you teach and study biodiversity or French history, action is necessary. Here are some recent voices from the global academic community that echo this concern:

…and potential actions against the Trump insanity are summarized on other posts.


Immigration policies that exacerbate the war on science.

The new memos for immigration policy speak for themselves, they are deporable. They also add another direct hit against academia and the sciences, which depend on global collaborations, students and postdocs from around the world, and unimpeded international travel.

A summary of the memos from the Washington Post:

Beth Leger’s call to action:

First, a very timely call today: suggest calling Governor Sandoval’s office, asking if he will be making a statement about protecting immigrants in Nevada.
Governor Sandoval: 775 684 5670

What scientists will fight for and how they will defend science.

As scientists struggle to respond to the intensified attacks on facts and knowledge, one would not expect scientists to agree on the approaches to resist or reverse these attacks. As mentioned in the last blog, some have argued that marches could be ineffective and that they contribute to a poor view of scientists as being too political and not impartial seekers of truth. Nevertheless, the April 22 March on DC is quickly gaining popularity among scientists, and it makes sense to use all tools in the toolbox, including contacting representatives, donating to resistance groups and charities, boycotting companies that support Trump and other anti-science regimes, running for office, attending town hall meetings, going to marches and protests, continuing outreach and education, and continuing to do good science.

It is also important to have a message, and here is a great example of a scientist providing a clear, strong message:

Also, here is some wise resistance advice from Bernice King, described by this article in the Washington Post:


Finally, don’t forget to write to and call your representatives. There are plenty of options for talking points, including several in the last blog post and others that will populate in the first comment on this blog.