State of Ignorance: How Bing and Scott Pruitt go hand-in-hand

WILLIAM JOHNS [CC BY 2.0] / FLICKR
The removal of “climate change” from the EPA website mirrors the struggle between Google and Bing

Americans love withholding information in lieu of explicit opposition to a problem. Take the Civil War as an example: Some in the South refer to the Civil War as the “War of Northern Aggression” — lending fault to the Northern states without even acknowledging the purpose of the war in the first place — as a method of diverting attention away from the reality of the situation.

In the midst of Donald Trump’s presidency, a similar phenomena appears to be ravaging the Environmental Protection Agency. While Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, painstakingly unravels decades’ worth of environmental protection regulations, a few controversial terms have seemingly vanished from the EPA website: “fossil fuels,” “greenhouse gases” and — arguably the most alarming — “global warming.”

Now, behavior like this cannot remove entirely the existence of human-driven climate change. Consider, however, a similar, if slightly ludicrous, scenario:

Imagine a student, like any other you’d encounter at any campus in any city or town within the United States. When the pressures of midterms and finals fall upon the shoulders of this young student, they find themselves fleeing to the much-beloved internet to provide them with answers. They open their laptop, log onto the internet and type a four-lettered word to get to the common search engine:

Bing.

Yep, in this world, students, parents, teachers and children alike flock to the popular Microsoft platform Bing to solve all of their questionable worries. That’s not to imply that Google doesn’t exist, however — only that the scope of Bing’s renown is so great that it overshadows any chance for Google to compete.

So, in this world, instead of just “Googling” something, you “Bing” it.

Sounds bizarre, right?

In reality, Mr. Pruitt’s behavior doesn’t bode well for the future of U.S. environmental policy when we have a president who hails the return of “clean coal,” biomass burning and other fossil fuels that heavily pollute our air, land and water systems.

Let’s return to the fictitious student: In his world, people choose Bing over of Google. The problem lies not in the fact that in our world the roles have reversed, but rather that through such a large-scale suppression of intent (i.e. one search engine’s basic monopoly on the existent market) affects widespread public awareness.

The same could be applied to the future of global climate change: In the EPA’s sudden erasure of topics concerning global climate change, public knowledge on the subject becomes stunted. This move occurred without the pomp and circumstance that direct opposition would have bought; instead, Mr. Pruitt and Mr. Trump slyly reinvented the EPA’s website without having to outwardly admit their intentions.

Moreover, when the EPA removed references to global warming, it didn’t completely erase the multitude of the studies that prove its existence. In this case, the internet acts as an untouchable archive free from the regulation of a singular government.

What Mr. Pruitt has ultimately achieved is the elimination of a formerly reliable source at a time when the world needs as many unbiased outlets as possible. There’s a reason why authors consistently return to the phrase “there’s strength in numbers” — the only way to convince even the most stubborn of skeptics is by flooding their daily lives with enough facts to get the point across.

Therefore, Pruitt’s transformation of the EPA website is much more devastating than you’d initially be led to believe, as it further encourages the climate of ignorance currently sweeping the nation in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

If there’s an issue deserving of ignorance, climate change is not it — not when global temperatures are expected to soar past the two degree Celsius mark, delineated by the Paris Climate Agreement, in 2050.

By erasing terms related to human involvement in climate change, not only does Mr. Pruitt remove any gravity from the global issue but his actions also announce to the American populace that our warming planet is not a big enough issue for them to worry about. As a result, Mr. Pruitt continues the American tradition of implicit opposition: the head of the EPA will never announce that his intentions stand contrary to environment.

Instead, Mr. Pruitt simply makes his opponents disappear.

 

 

Written by: Erin Hamilton — elhamilton@ucdavis.edu

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