Day 5 of the Government Shutdown: a chronicle and rant kind of day

Day 5 of the government shutdown chronicles, this time I’m blogging about it.  Today I was determined to be productive.  I awoke early, walked Rio and got a jump on the day. What actually happened was that I got out my little black book of tasks and outlined what I would like to accomplish this week.  Things aren’t too different today versus any other day at work, except that I’m not supposed to work on projects directly related to “government work.  So I started with my resume (really my curriculum vitae, CV) and several other required documents for necessary for applying for academic positions and other non-government jobs.  While I really love my job and Duluth is growing on me (like a cold, cold fungus) the likelihood of any federal jobs opening up is in severe doubt.  Even without the current shutdown, hiring at the EPA has frozen.  Even several critical hires have been filled through lateral transfers, rather than internal promotion of qualified candidates (from the ranks of term-employees or other types of positions).  So the writing is on the wall, and hopefully I can springboard from this position to something else great, and then if positions do ever open again, return.  There is talk of the government shutdown creating a brain drain within federal agencies, well I can tell you that the brain drain was happening well before the shutdown.  Just within my building, I have seen several highly talented and well qualified scientists leave on account of the lack of any available permanent positions.  While we are still staffed with world class scientists, many of them are approaching retirement eligibility.  I’m fairly certain this is the case all over the agency and in government in general.  People who are my age and younger would love to live a life of public service, to be a scientist for the nation, but spending cuts and political hackery are driving us out.  While there are jobs to be found in academics or the private (industrial) sector, they are not the same.  Academics are the freelancers, the developers of envelope pushing ideas, and are required for a nation to have a full bore scientific culture.  Industry scientist are also highly qualified professionals who drive there corporations to be cleaner, safer, and more environmentally sound.  However, academics can only science they can fund, and often on a small scale (even the most ambitious academic projects are only 1-2 years) because the culture of academics is publish or perish and long-term, highly complex projects (spanning the lives of multiple grad students) are not generally the building blocks for tenure.  The bottom line for corporations is the bottom line, money.  The job of a corporation is to make money, for employees, owners, and stockholders, the corporate environmental scientist only persists if there are profits to be made through environmental improvements or because government regulations must be followed.  The government scientist bridges this gap.  They are able to develop long term monitoring projects and the regulations required to help clean up our environment (and prevent future damage).  Government researchers (what I do for a living or at least did until the shutdown and will do again until my term is up next August) bridge the gap between pure research and regulations, developing new innovations, techniques, and methodologies to make the world a greener, better place.  Research and regulations conducted and enacted by the US federal agencies under the auspices of the Clean Air, Clean Water and many other acts keep our rivers from lighting on fire, our air safe to breathe, our water safe to drink.  This process was never instantaneous or static, it is incremental and dynamic.  Ban DDT because it kill birds, a new class of pesticides emerge, which it turns out may be killing all of the bees, and while bald eagles are our national symbol, the simple honey bee is the pollinator of everything green, so new regulations and research is needed to further protect our environment.  While what I work on (primarily chemical of emerging concern) are not the thing that is likeliest to kill you in the short-term, I am cog in the research wheel and piece to the puzzle and maybe some of the innovations that I develop and can provide will be built upon by those after me, as I have worked to build upon what those behind me have done.  If we close out that innovation, we are left with crumbling castles of regulation that only apply to things causing problems 10, 20, or even 30 years ago.  It is a fast moving, dynamic world, and while government will never be as fast or as dynamic, being hamstrung and slowly killed by the thousand paper cuts will only lead to worse conditions.

OK, so I’m done with my soap box. I’ve vented on my blog.  In other news, I also worked on a few presentations for an upcoming meeting, after I determined they fall under “professional development” and not “government work”.  The also wanted to make a slow cooker pot roast, only to find there is a small margin of error between searing meat for added flavor and the whole house filling up with smoke.  On a good note, I learned that Rio is very concerned with fire safety and fire alarms specifically (she was very upset by all the smoke and alarms), while the cats continued to be cats and not give a shit.  It is a good thing that they are friendly. Luckily, dinner was saved and thanks to a few fans in the windows and some sun on a cool day I was able to blow most of the smoke out of the window.  It is hard to believe that there is not a hood for my range.  I guess in the 1910s when this place was built between the coal soot, wood smoke, and cigarettes, nobody thought it would be necessary to have hood that removed the smoke from kitchen.   Now that the smoke has cleared and I’ve finished venting for the afternoon, I think I’ll get back to work.  Hope everyone is doing well and all my friends and co-workers are finding ways to survive this shutdown.

Also as an FYI.  The views expressed in this blog  are mine(AKA the author) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the US Environmental Protection Agency. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.USepa shutdown-01 (1)

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