Tuesday, January 10, 2023

"I Worked at a Government Lab and Was Fired for My Climate Activism" (Dr. Rose Abramoff's New York Times Guest Essay)

I applaud and am in awe at the courage of fired Oak RIdge National Laboratory scientific whistleblower Dr. Rose Abramoff, Ph.D., soil scientist and climate activist.  Dr. Abramoff's enlightening experience with misguided ORNL mismanagement is consistent with my own work involving exposing and suing the government and its contractors for the vast "scientific ghetto" in Oak Ridge.  

Oak Ridge reminds me of what Lincoln once said in a Temperance lecture -- "Idolatry that practices human sacrifice. 

I first encountered tortious ORNL and its works and pomps first as Appalachian Observer Editor, winning Department of Energy declassification (40 years ago on May 17) of the largest mercury pollution event in world history -- scooping all of the "Chain Gang Journalism" newspapers.  This was a feat for which "the Mercury Kid" was recommended for a Pulitzer Prize by Anderson County District Attorney General James Nelson Ramsey, one of my mentors. 

Here is Dr. Abramoff's New York Times Guest Essay


I Worked at a Government Lab and Was Fired for My Climate Activism

Needles on the branch of a hemlock tree.
Hemlock trees are dying because of a pest that now survives the warming winters.Credit...Desmond Picotte for The New York Times
Needles on the branch of a hemlock tree.

Dr. Abramoff is an earth scientist who studies the effect of climate change on natural and managed ecosystems.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Shortly after the New Year, I was fired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory after urging fellow scientists to take action on climate change. At the American Geophysical Unionmeeting in December, just before speakers took the stage for a plenary session, my fellow climate scientist Peter Kalmus and I unfurled a banner that read “Out of the lab & into the streets.” In the few seconds before the banner was ripped from our hands, we implored our colleagues to use their leverage as scientists to wake the public up to the dying planet.

Soon after this brief action, the A.G.U., an organization with 60,000 members in the earth and space sciences, expelled us from the conference and withdrew the research that we had presented that week from the program. Eventually, it began a professional misconduct inquiry (it’s ongoing).

Then, on Jan. 3, Oak Ridge, the laboratory outside Knoxville where I had worked as an associate scientist for one year, terminated my employment. I am the first earth scientist I know of to be fired for climate activism. I fear I will not be the last.

Oak Ridge said it was forced to fire me because I misused government resources by engaging in a personal activity on a work trip and because I did not adhere to its Code of Business Ethics and Conduct. The code has points on scientific integrity, maintaining the institution’s reputation and using government resources “only as authorized and appropriate and with integrity, responsibility, and care.”

When Dr. Kalmus and I decided to make our statement during the lunch plenary session, I knew that we risked being asked to leave the stage or the conference. But I did not expect that our research would be removed from the program or that I would lose my job. When I began participating in climate actions with other scientists in 2022, senior managers at Oak Ridge asked that I make it clear to the public and the media that I spoke and acted on my own behalf. I followed these guidelines to the best of my ability, including at A.G.U., where Dr. Kalmus, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and I did not mention our institutions in our statements.

Rose Abramoff is an earth scientist who studies the effect of climate change on natural and managed ecosystems. She is also a climate activist, working with Scientist Rebellion and other groups.


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