Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Trump’s scientific decisions worry STEM students

On Friday, Sept. 8, President Donald Trump nominated Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine to run NASA, a controversial move in the eyes of many. Bridenstine is a noted skeptic of climate change, similar to Trump‘s appointed EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt.
These views have concerned students pursuing STEM fields across the Augustana campus, who worry that with the shifting political trends will come job insecurity and public mistrust of those working in scientific careers.
Senior Genevieve Rodriguez is the president of the Augustana sierra club and is disturbed by the current changes in scientific administration. According to her, the importance of scientific study and communication has been devalued by American leadership.
“I think it’s scary because the science I’m into – ecology and environmental studies – are things that our government now is pushing way low on the priority list. It’s making a lot of people who already didn’t care about these issues care even less and think that they’re not real issues,” Rodriguez said.
With these changes in the way the government perceives science, the senior is worried that job security in STEM fields is going to become more inconsistent.
“It scares me going into a field of geography and environmental studies because what if they don’t want those jobs anymore? What if their budgets are cut and they can’t hire as many people? We have so many national parks, and I would love to work at one. But what if we stop taking care of them or we develop on that land instead? That’s a job that I can’t have,” Rodriguez said.
Sophomore Mikaylo Kelly understands that the state of science in the United States is not as regarded as it once was and thinks that there are definite changes that need to be made for the public to value science again.
“I think the current state of science in the US is paradoxical in that the public is constantly getting better and better access to distractive technologies that quench our desires, such as computers, phones, and new car models, while technologies that could make fossil fuels, and logging, for example, obsolete aren’t being implemented to our full economic capacity,” Kelly said.
“I think politically and economically we should reorient our priorities to allocate funds towards technologies that not only create much less impact upon Earth’s natural systems, but help them to heal.”
Sophomore Lexi Karon is double majoring in environmental studies and geography. She sees the need for more scientific progress in education.
“I think that science is becoming more encouraged in schools, especially with women…I really hope finding a job isn’t an issue when I graduate. I plan on going to graduate school for whatever I decide to do with my majors, and hopefully I will find a secure job when the time comes. It does stress me out because I want to help the environment but also live without the constant anxiety of having an inadequate job to support myself and my family,” Karon said. 

However unstable the job market or public thought about STEM fields may be, Rodriguez still thinks that participating in conversations and says the sierra club is a big reason why the campus is encouraged to live sustainably.
“The group has really grown since last year, and I think that just having people in the group makes them feel like they’re doing something that can help the environment. It makes me happy that many people want to help – I think it encourages them to live more sustainability,” Rodriguez said.
According to Kelly, the best thing to promote when political leaders don’t see the value in science is for science literacy of citizen-scientists.
“Don’t let fear guide your decision making process. Be transparent with your work and in this way join into larger communities of people with similar interests and problems so we can all grow and help each other and the earth in a timely and more comprehensive way,” Kelly said.
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Trump’s scientific decisions worry STEM students