Linda Hall Library Fellowships 2018/19

The Linda Hall Library is excited to announce its 2018/19 fellowships. The Library awards diverse funding opportunities to pre- and post-doctoral scholars of exceptional promise in the history of science and related areas of science and technology studies. The Library offers scholars a setting for deep immersion in outstanding collections of primary and secondary sources as well as stimulating intellectual exchange with other fellows, in-house scholars, and members of the surrounding scholarly community. Fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis to support residential research stays from one week up to a full academic year for research that makes use of the Library’s outstanding collections. All fellowship applications are due January 19, 2018.

For the academic year 2018/19, the Linda Hall Library is proud to once again offer a 80/20 Fellowship. To prepare graduate students for diverse career possibilities within and outside the academy, 80/20 pre-doctoral fellows will spend 80% of their time pursuing dissertation-related research in the Library’s collections and 20% of their time working with a mentor to curate an exhibition that relates to his/her scholarly interest but is intended for the broader public. The 80/20 fellow will also oversee the planning, research, and installation of the exhibition and hold a public gallery talk in conjunction with the exhibition opening. All 80/20 Fellowships are 10 months in length and only pre-doctoral scholars are eligible to apply.

The Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri, has emerged as one of the foremost independent science and technology libraries in the country. Its extensive primary- and secondary-source holdings document the sciences, technology, and engineering disciplines from the 15th century to the present. The collections are especially strong in the following areas: natural history, astronomy, engineering, physical sciences, life sciences, environmental studies, non-western sciences, Cold War sciences, earth sciences, infrastructure studies, aeronautics, and mathematics. The Library holds more than 500,000 monograph volumes (with over 10,000 rare books) and more than 48,000 journal titles, including a complete set of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, beginning in 1665.

For more information and to apply to fellowships, visit: http://www.lindahall.org/fellowships/

What Filthy Old Birds Can Tell Us About Air Pollution

Read the full story at Gizmodo.

By analyzing sooty birds housed in museum collections, scientists have been able to track patterns of US air pollution over the last 135 years. As the new study shows, air at the turn of the 20th century was even dirtier than we thought—a finding that will now be used to improve our climate models.

Vintage photos taken by the EPA reveal what America looked like before pollution was regulated

Read the full story in Business Insider.

The Trump administration plans to kill the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s main initiative to fight climate change by lowering emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, said Monday.

The Clean Power Plan aimed to help the US reach the goals set in the Paris climate agreement by curbing emissions from power plants.

Pruitt has reportedly spent much of his term meeting with executives and lobbyists from companies and industries regulated by the EPA. Many reports also suggest that Pruitt’s primary aim is to eliminate environmental protections and dismantle much of the regulatory agency.

Under Pruitt, the EPA has already reversed a ban on a pesticide that can harm children’s brains and moved to rescind the Clean Water Rule, which clarified the Clean Water Act to prohibit industries from dumping pollutants into streams and wetlands. The agency has also reportedly begun an initiative to challenge climate science, among other rollbacks. Some of these moves have been challenged in court, but others are already in effect.

If Pruitt succeeds in rolling back a significant portion of the rules meant to protect air and water quality, we’d return to the state the US was in before these things were regulated.

The EPA was founded in 1970 and soon after began a photo project called Documerica that captured more than 81,000 images showing what the US looked like from 1971 to 1977. More than 20,000 photos were archived, and at least 15,000 have been digitized by the National Archives.

Here’s a selection of those photos, many of which show what the US looked like without the air and water protections that exist today.

The EPA Under Siege

Read the full report.

The Trump administration currently poses the greatest threat to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its entire 47-year history. Twice before, presidential administrations in North America have targeted their own environmental agencies with comparable aggression, in the early Reagan administration (1981-1983) and under Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (2006-2015). Trump’s assault is on track to surpass these. Successful challenges to these earlier attacks provide pointers for those hoping to uphold the EPA’s mission of protecting human and environmental health today, Republicans and Democrats alike. Our analysis draws upon deep digs into historical literature and archives as well as sixty interviews with current and former EPA and some OSHA employees.

Key points:

  • In its early decades, the EPA enjoyed bipartisan support, growing under both Republican and Democratic presidents.
  • The greatest exception was the first Reagan administration (1981-1983).
  • Trump’s attack has mirrored Reagan’s in its reliance on appointing administrators with corporate ties who decry government “overreach”, including his first EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch; an executive order undermining stringent environmental protections, by requiring cost-benefit analysis of new rules by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB); reorganization to break up the EPA Office of Enforcement; and proposals for deep budget and staff cuts.
  • Impacts: During Reagan’s first two years, Anne Gorsuch along with OMB director David Stockman succeeded in reducing the EPA budget by 21% and staff by 26%. Enforcement actions also dropped dramatically: civil cases referred from the regions to headquarters, for instance, fell by 79%.
  • The early-Reagan assault on the EPA ended after only two years, because of: revelations of conflict of interest, lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and more, via Congressional investigations and subpoenas, investigative reporting, and leaks; resistance from former and current employees, working through a “Save EPA” group and a new employee union, along with environmental and community groups; and political pressure from mounting public disapproval.
  • Reversal: By late 1983 Gorsuch and 21 other political appointees had resigned and the Reagan administration was seeking to restore the agency’s leadership, resources, and mission.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration (2006-2015) also anticipated Trump in targeting science as well as the environment. Harper did so in an era of solidifying consensus among scientists about human contributions to climate change, when the need to shift energy usage away from fossil fuels was becoming ever more apparent.
  • Harper’s attacks on environmental regulation came coupled with others on Canadian science and scientists: the Harper administration reversed Canada’s approach to climate change, and undermined environmental initiatives in general. It also significantly cut funding for federal laboratories and research programs, monitored and in some cases prohibited federal scientists from speaking publicly, deleted content from federal environmental websites, and closed federal environmental libraries.
  • Successful challenges to the Harper Administration took longer to materialize. From 2011, Canadian residents protested and formed organizations. Both science and the environment then emerged as key issues in the 2015 campaign season, which ushered in current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • The Trump administration’s overt challenges to the agency are compounding the effects of a quieter, longer-term erosion of support. The EPA has been shrinking in budget and staff size since the Clinton administration. Its peak staff size came in 1999, and its FY 2016 budget of $8.1 billion represents 9% fewer real dollars than the Agency received in 2006. Congressional Republicans have already been targeting the EPA’s Science Advisory Board.
  • In its first few months, the Trump administration has subjected the EPA to provocations and pressures surpassing those of Reagan’s early months:
  • Appointments like that of Scott Pruitt, who combines hostility to EPA “overreach” with greater experience than Gorsuch.
  • Speeches and publicity that ignore or contest the agency’s basic mission and that pledge overt allegiance to regulated industries.
  • Multiple executive orders asking the agency not just to favor fossil fuels but to rescind two existing rules for every new one (with assessments based only on compliance costs and not on calculated benefits); reevaluate the rest of agency rules for “burdensomeness”; and reorganize with a view to downsizing.
  • Proposals for steep budget and staff cuts beyond what even Anne Gorsuch first ventured, especially targeting climate, international collaborations, environmental justice, and enforcement programs; scientific research; and grants to states for implementation and enforcement.
  • Marginalization, monitoring, and suspicion of career employees. Morale has plummeted, and many describe a deep anxiety about their own careers and the future of environmental protection and the EPA.
  • Our historical analysis singles out key determinants of the EPA’s future:
  • Reviving a bipartisan coalition to support the agency in Congress offers the first, best hope for thwarting this administration’s destructive plans.
  • Since hearings in the Republican-led House and Senate are unlikely without demonstrated malfeasance or scandal, current and former EPA employees, Congressmen and their staffs, investigative journalists and media, environmental groups and other professionals and activists need to:
  • Keep a public spotlight on the environmental and science-related actions of the Trump administration and their consequences.
  • Better illuminate the long-standing importance and historically bipartisan support of this agency in protecting the health and wellbeing of people and the environment.
  • Environmental, climate, and community groups need to mobilize effectively to support the EPA’s environmental protections, science, and integrity, via media, protests, courtrooms, and the ballot box.

At EPA museum, history might be in for a change

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Scott Pruitt has repeated a particular line again and again since becoming the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The future ain’t what it used to be at the EPA,” he’s fond of saying.

As it turns out, the past may not be what it once was, either.

In an obscure corner of the Ronald Reagan International Trade Building, a debate is underway about how to tell the story of the EPA’s history and mission.