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Environment Montana Research & Policy Center
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The Missoulian

Guest Column

Taking a Stand For Truth, Science
By
Alexandra O'Connor

Less than a week after thousands of Americans marched on Washington and in hundreds of cities around the country in support of science-based policymaking, the Trump administration quietly removed any mention of climate change from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. One of the pages no longer accessible to the public is the EPA’s decades-old climate change information hub – despite the fact that the agency’s own science demonstrates that climate change is a real and urgent threat.

Actions like these are shamefully partisan, but the facts of climate change cannot be viewed through a partisan lens. To do so would be detrimental to the collective efforts needed in order to meet and overcome the challenges we face as the earth continues to warm.

Now more than ever, public outreach is imperative, and public participation — being connected with and involved in policy issues — can make the difference between feeling apathetic about where our country is going, and feeling empowered to fight for a better government; one that works in tandem with the scientific community and the public to find solutions to our most dire problems.

Providing an activist opportunity for the previously uninvolved or uninterested is what motivated me to organize a March for Science satellite protest at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park on April 22. The community here is extremely isolated. The nearest grocery store is over 45 minutes away, not counting those pesky bison jams, and so marches in D.C. can feel practically extraterrestrial. But even here in the remote wilderness, shockwaves from the decisions in Washington have shaken us. People are worried. People are frustrated.

At the protest itself, we met a variety of individuals concerned about this administration’s stance on science and overall "truth." Members of activist groups, such as Environment Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, were there to lend support, and locals from both inside the park and from towns on the park’s exterior came to join in our calls for fact-based environmental policy. A group of students from Concordia College in Minnesota even organized a road trip out to Yellowstone, armed with a passion for truth and their protest signs.

The whole process, from conception to organization to execution, was a great learning experience for me. Luckily, I had support in my neighbors Michelle Ciotta and Jenny Jost, the latter of which experienced her first protest ever at our science march. And that was what the whole experience was about. Yes, we provided postcards for the public to write to their elected officials, and our two petitions garnered over 100 signatures, but the secondary goal was to galvanize the previously politically detached. To bring fresh faces and new voices into the resistance.

Americans are waking up and taking a stand, some for the first time in their lives. We won’t abide “alternative facts,” the censoring of scientific data or apathy. Turning your back on climate change doesn’t make it any less real. As we continue our efforts to reach out and inform, I hope U.S. Sen. Jon Tester will oppose President Trump’s efforts to block climate action and this administration’s efforts to undermine truth.

 

Alexandra O’Connor lives and works at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. She organized a March for Science satellite protest at Old Faithful on Earth Day, April 22, in conjunction with the March for Science in Washington, D.C., held on the same day.