On January 19th, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency removed climate change from its website. White House PR has called it an act of aligning priorities under the leadership of President Trump. I call it censorship.
Those who control the flow of information, control reality itself.
On the Internet there isn’t a spectacle, there aren’t memorials, but sometimes you get a temporary banner:
One day the banner will likely be removed. How are we to keep a truth record of what’s past with the Internet as such as short-lived medium? One solution is Archive.org. Started in 1996, Archive.org is a non-profit website that catalogs semi-interactive snapshots of a website through time.
If you want to see what MTV’s website looked like in 1999? You can. If you want to find out Barack Obama’s stance on climate change before he was elected? You can visit his homepage dating back to 2006. And, of course, at Archive.org you can view the entire history of EPA’s websites:
The Post-2017 EPA
You may be wondering why the president has the power to remove pages from the EPA’s website? Alone, he doesn’t. But the president does have the authority to hire and influence those who do. During his term, he appoints over 1,200 positions including the board members for the Library of Congress, The Department of Agriculture, and yes, the EPA.
In 2017, President Trump appointed Scott Pruitt as Head of the EPA. Before taking charge of the EPA, Pruitt was the former Attorney General of Oklahoma where his biography proudly declared himself “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”
Mr. Pruitt’s 2016 bio has since been removed from the website. After the appointment, his latest revision includes a softer, pro-EPA stance.
How can someone who opposed the EPA, and denies the science on climate change be put in charge of upholding the original promise of the EPA?
Why we need the EPA
Scott Pruitt was born in 1968. Considering he was only two years old when the EPA was created, he may not remember what life was like before the EPA. Ask any American who lived through the 1960s and you’re likely to hear stories of cities trapped in smog, undrinkable tap water, and rivers that caught on fire.
Then President Richard Nixon recognized the hazard. And so in 1970, he signed a bill that kicked off the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency with a mission to “protect human health by safeguarding the air we breathe, water we drink and land on which we live.”
The EPA caused massive improvements across the country: no river has caught on fire since 1969. We now have four times as many cars on the road as we did in 1970, but our cities are no longer suffocating in smog, and American kids born today have 1/20th the level of lead in their blood as they would were they born in the 1960s. None of these achievements will be appreciated or remembered if we don’t preserve our history. As the adage goes, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”
Greater than my fear of censorship is my fear of apathy.
Eventually, dropping webpages and re-writing history won’t seem like a big deal, because it happens all the time. But perhaps we can shine a spotlight on government censorship, and bring attention to the EPA’s tilting of reality.
We have the potential to add an alternative voice to the web. Or at the very least a counterbalance to future Google searches.
“Make no mistake: if President Trump won’t lead, the American people will.”
The more we speak up, the harder it is to censor us.
* Originally published on Medium