Strange things are afoot in the state of Wisconsin, where a state agency has banned its employees from “working on or speaking about climate change.” Florida’s state Department of Environmental Protection tried it last month and now Wisconsin has hopped aboard the “ignore it and it will go away” train. In what the media has taken to calling an act of “climate censorship,” Wisconsin has become the latest state where the environmental protection rules and regulations are being constructed by people who refuse to accept that climate change is an integral part of our planet’s (and our people’s) health.
The problem in Wisconsin centers on the Department of Natural Resources, and namely in changes made by Governor Scott Walker to the department’s leadership, including the appointment of a “deer czar” to address hunting concerns. Under constraint of recent budget cuts, the DNR has cut their staff by 30 percent and is considering axing the science bureau altogether, essentially sending a message to the public that scientific findings are not relative to the health of the local environment.
In addition to that move, an April 7 vote of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, which oversees logging on some state land among several other financial duties, approved a measure to ban its nine employees from working on or speaking about climate change. Just like in Florida, the Wisconsin government has opted to pretend that climate change isn’t a crucial factor in making decisions about the future of the natural resources in their state.
Government officials at the local, state, and federal levels need to hear that refusing to acknowledge or discuss climate change isn’t going to make it go away. In fact, as we well know, denying its effects could make problems much worse. Concerned citizens have organized an online petition to send a message to Gov. Walker that climate censorship is not okay. The petition has already met its goal of 22,000 signatures, but more voices will send an even stronger message and hopefully get the attention of politicians in other states who might be thinking about jumping on the bandwagon.