Tuesday, August 08, 2017


In his prescient novel, 1984, George Orwell introduced the world to Newspeak, a minimized and simplified revision of English designed to make nuanced, reasoned, independent thought impossible.

Inspired by our current president and his climate-change denial, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)--the agency whose mission is to guide and enhance American agriculture, conserve and improve the rural environment, and help feed America and the world--has decided to outlaw phrases such as "climate change," "climate change adaptation," "reduce greenhouse gases," and "sequester carbon." Newspeak is alive and well at the USDA.

Flooding in New Orleans--yet again

Those now-forbidden terms are to be replaced in official communication by what Orwell would call "goodthink"--terms approved by the all-powerful Party. "Climate change" becomes "weather extremes" or "intense weather events," "climate change adaptation" becomes "resilience to weather extremes," while "reduce greenhouse gases" and "sequester carbon" become "build soil organic matter" or the mind-numbing "increase nutrient use efficiency."

Wildfire, Black Forest, Colorado, June 12, 2013
Credit: DoD--photo by Master Sgt. Christopher DeWitt, U.S. Air Force

In Oldspeak--plain old English--it's at least possible to think and speak clearly about the global problem of climate change and ways to minimize or adapt to it. But, in Newspeak, in Trump's Department of Agriculture, that's now a thoughtcrime, or, better yet, simply unthinkable.

The flash drought that's currently decimating the high plains' wheat crop is simply an isolated weather extreme. It can't be linked to the raging wildfires in the Pacific Northwestflooding in New Orleans, the fact that Virginia's Tangier Island is washing away or that Death Valley just experienced the hottest month ever measured anywhere on Earth. The concept that ties these "weather extremes" together no longer exists, at least at the USDA.

You can see this in action at the EPA, where scientists explaining how climate change has added to the destructive power of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey are being accused of politicizing the storm. In other words, understanding is politicizing. Remaining ignorant is the right thing to do.

 Credit: Stephen Bettany

One of the three guiding slogans of the Party in 1984 was "Ignorance is Strength." If that's true, Trump's USDA is certainly flexing its muscles.


You can read environmentalist Bill McKibben's comments  on this issue here.

You can read about an outbreak of Trump-mandated Newspeak at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here, or at this URL.Newly banned words and phrases include "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based," and "science-based." I, for one, start to feel pretty vulnerable when concepts like "evidence-based" and "science-based" are banned. What will replace them? The Republican party line? Trump's latest whim?

Part of the CDC's "Pledge to the American People" is to "Base all public health decisions on the highest quality scientific data that is derived openly and objectively." They should amend that to read, "Base all public health decisions on the current political directives from the President and his appointees, derived behind closed doors to advance a partisan agenda."

And you can see how far this fascist penchant for censoring words and ideas can go in this recent news item about the censorship of words, phrases and internet search terms in China. Just to put the cork in the bottle, they've banned references to George Orwell, 1984 and Animal Farm.


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