An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant
June 7, 2017
Historically, the force of change has been social movements starting from the bottom up, advocating for laws and policies that reflect notions of justice, grounded truth, and firmly-held beliefs. These political and social changes are often fueled by younger generations who strive to create a better world for their futures. Global warming is a contemporary example of this unfolding. Many recent policy-relevant changes unfurled by the Trump administration, however, are working against this tide and attempting to shape the public into a mold of their creation – forcing change downwards. By having a governmental authority figure that strives to redefine social norms and facts, leaves the validity of government-sourced information to be questioned, perfectly exemplified by the Environmental Information Administration (EIA).
Students like myself have been rallying on campuses around the world to raise awareness about the need for environmental protection and advocate for climate justice. My education and own awareness on global climate change, pollution, and environmental degradation have empowered me to act. Yet, this type of education and awareness are at risk of diminishing for younger generations – the ones who will be burdened with the destroyed environment we are creating. Just recently, the Trump administration edited the EIA’s website pages dedicated to educating children on the environment. The pages were amended to reword and omit sentences, facts and words that blatantly showed correlation between environmental pollution and the coal, oil and fracking industries (Lee 2017).
Pie graphs that depicted emissions released from coal relative to the percentage of coal energy utilized by American citizens were removed and words such as “impacts” were substituted with less harsh words such as “effects” (Lee 2017). Furthermore, the following sentences were completely removed “In the United States, most of the coal consumed is used as a fuel to generate electricity. Burning coal produces emissions that adversely affect the environment and human health” (Lee 2017). The changes to the website, represent a shift away from renewable energies towards harmful energy sources like coal.
Children are like sponges, absorbing the information and opinions that surround them. By removing key elements and evidence from their sources of information, their perspectives on the environment will be manipulated to fit the prerogative of corrupt industries. Biasing which ‘facts’ children are taught is not only fundamentally wrong, but it also hinders them from understanding the true severity of our environmental situation. Environmental protection will not be viewed as an imperative and most importantly those who should be held accountable will be able to continue on with business as usual.
Moreover, when it comes to our media environment, we now face the issue of not knowing what is a reliable source and where to turn to for evidence-based, unbiased, and accurate information. In the past, I turned to .gov websites for reliable information. However, the recent turn of events makes me question these sites’ validity. Having a government who encourages people to espouse such illegitimate and dishonest rhetoric highlights the issue of not knowing what is evidence-based fact from opinion in today’s media.
What this means is that we as the younger generation must stay politically aware and environmentally educated from a variety of sources. In doing so, we challenge those who strive to rewrite truths by acknowledging their falsehoods and holding them accountable.
Lee, Patrick G. “Concern Sparked by Recent Changes to a Department of Energy Website for Kids.” Pro Publica, 17 Feb. 2017, www.propublica.org/article/childs-play-team-trump-rewrites-a-department-of-energy-website-for-kids?utm_source=pardot&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter.