Of all the strange and worrisome things that took place in Washington this year perhaps the worst was news earlier this month that the Trump Administration had provided the Center for Disease Control (CDC) a list of seven words or phrases that it does not want used (click here to read the article). In essence, those words and phrases are being censored. Learning this reminded me about deceased comedian George Carlin’s bit about Seven Words You Can’t Say On TV, but nothing, of course, about news that our government has censored scientific words or phrases is funny. In fact, censorship is dangerous.
Personally, 2017 has been a remarkable year that I will never forget. I graduated from high school and late this year finished my first semester at the University of Miami while being selected as an Intern in Dr. Hammerschlag’s renowned Shark Research and Conservation Lab. In between, I was awarded the Miami Herald’s Silver Knight Award for Social Science and the Inaugural National Geographic Teen Service Award, among other honors.
Over the summer I helped enact Florida’s first solar mandate law that made The Sunshine State only the second in America with such a progressive step towards sustainability. And I traveled to New York twice, once for the amazing, humbling, honor to address the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme and the Everglades National Park on World Oceans Day, and the second time to work with MTV and former Vice President Al Gore in support of his new book and movie An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. And speaking of books, my work with The Sink or Swim Project was mentioned in two important books: Truth to Power and Utilizing Innovative Technologies to Address the Public Health Impact of Climate Change.
I was also honored to lecture to thousands of young people this year in elementary, middle and high school, as well as various colleges in Central and South Florida. And this fall I was named a member of the Board of Directors of the CLEO Institute.
But of all the things that I did this year, perhaps the most important in my view was helping conceive, organize and then hosting the inaugural March for Science Miami in April with a group of incredible women. Evidence based, peer reviewed science is the very foundation of discovery and innovation and, thus, the news earlier this month that our federal government would censor the use of scientific phrases is somewhere between sick and scary.
In a democracy where free speech is embraced and cherished as a core, founding value of our country, it is impossible to understand how our government could dictate that these, or any, words or phrases (vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based) be outlawed and this should alarm every American no matter their political affiliation.
But, of course, this does not completely surprise those of us here in Florida were our Governor, Rick Scott, himself a close ally and confidant to President Trump, has outlawed phrases such as global warming, climate change and sea level rise from his administration. And he’s doing this knowing well and good that communities all over our region are being forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to begin fighting the exact threats the Governor pretends to overlook. Censorship is not ‘normal politics’, it’s unethical and immoral and it must stop.