by Stephanie Sarkisian, English major at the University of Vermont.
In January 2017, President Donald Trump instituted a blackout on social media at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An email has been sent out that states rules such as “No press releases will be going out to external audiences, no social media, no blog messages, no new content can be placed on any website.” This temporary suspension creates complications and a significant impact on EPA activities all over the nation. This ban was created after the official National Park Service twitter page retweeted images comparing Obama’s 2009 inauguration versus Trump’s inauguration in 2017. I guess size does matter? All NPS groups were emailed and told, “The expectation is that there will be absolutely no posts to Twitter.” Donald Trump believes that climate change is a hoax created by China, and for some reason silencing Twitter accounts is the way to make sure that no one would make fun of him again.
Right after this email went out, Badlands National Park (@BadlandsNPS) began a string of tweets were regarding climate change. These facts were showing many statistical differences on Earth today, such as carbon dioxide levels being the highest they’ve ever been, and ocean acidification. However, these tweets were deleted shortly after being posted. There are claims that the tweets were posted by a former employee, who was not supposed to have access to the account. The park service did announce that they were not told to take the tweets down due to the EPA ban, but decided to do it on their own. With this began the birth of many new Twitter accounts, many of them that could be considered resistance teams run by NPS employees. The ”new” Twitter account was called @AltUSNatParkService, along with others such as @BadHombreLandsNPS to poke more fun at President Trump from a previous presidential debate. These Twitter accounts created an outlet for the NPS to continue voicing the issues of climate change, while finding a way around the EPA social media ban.
The attempts to silence the National Park Service failed because of the power of social media. The @AltUSNatParkService Twitter page gained 600,000 followers over the course of 24 hours since it was created. This outlet allowed NPS employees to reach people and have their voices heard. Despite the fact that it was an unofficial Twitter that was not verified, people supported the resistance efforts. Shortly after all of this, resistance efforts have also begun to protect Bears Ears National Monument, a national treasure that covers most of Utah. Trump wants to defund the protection of the area and make it public land, which would in turn result in the loss of valuable cultural and ecological land. The power of social media allows people all over the country to connect with one another. It provides groups like the National Park Service opportunity to share meaningful content that needs to be heard and learned, despite the efforts of people to silence them, like Donald Trump.