By Nicole Block, Climate Communications Student Writer
It has been two weeks since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released any Twitter messages, unusual for an account that typically posts at least once per day about environmental policy, research findings or public service announcements
Since January 20, when President Donald Trump took office, the EPA and other government agencies have been silent due to reported “gag orders” to refrain from posting on social media and sharing information with press and the public. While former U.S. presidents have called for freezes on federal agencies to review policies and take stock upon taking office, the scope and scale of silencing in President Trump’s first few days as Commander-in-Chief have been unprecedented. The administration has removed hyperlinks to the EPA and climate change issues previously listed on the White House webpage. All EPA scientific studies and reports are undergoing political review before publication, suggesting a clear shift in the new President’s focus and goals.
Social media has surged around these silenced agencies by enabling unofficial “rogue” accounts like @RogueNASA, @AltNatParkSer and @ActualEPAFacts. Some of these accounts identify themselves as government employees, others as civilians who wish to share facts that may be repressed by the Trump administration. Environmentalist Tom Steyer has made available a replica of the EPA’s website to protect information and data on climate change. These instances represent the growing popularity of social media and the web as a tool for bridging efforts to preserve scientific facts with political engagement.
Claire Napawan, associate professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design at UC Davis and UC Climate Champion, harnesses social media and digital platforms to share ideas and information about climate change. Her website allows users to share their everyday interactions with climate change by tagging their posts #ourchangingclimate on social media. Napawan seeks to make climate issues that often seem far away and too global to tackle accessible on a local, individual level. She also seeks to widen and diversify who can address these issues to find solutions.