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AAG’s Twitter chat will explore how new and proposed policies impact geography and geographers

The AAG will host a Twitter Chat on May 17 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time entitled “Geography and the New Administration.” To join the chat, follow @theAAG on Twitter using the #AAGChat hashtag. In order to set the scene for what we hope will be an engaging and interactive discussion, we wanted to share some perspectives on the active role our organization has played in responding to several noteworthy recent policies.

The AAG has had a policy office for well over a decade and our focus in that time has been on taking meaningful action in response to and monitoring and reporting to AAG members on legislative and other proposals that would have an impact on geography. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, we are limited in the amount of “lobbying” we can do, so we have generally weighed in on the most important issues while also keeping you informed about a broad range of relevant policies and legislative proposals.

We have also responded to numerous requests for information from policymakers and agency officials. Our approach has not changed in recent months, but we have been more active because of an increase in policies and proposals that would affect geographers or our discipline, including:

  • The AAG has opposed both versions of President Trump’s Executive Order blocking immigration from various foreign countries. These Orders have been stayed by Federal court actions, but if they were ultimately to take effect, they would block some geographers from being able to enter or return to the United States. This runs contrary to the ideal of open and free scholarly exchange and would have a negative impact on the higher education and other communities across our nation. AAG statements, along with other documents referenced below, can be accessed on our Policy Action webpage: http://www.aag.org/aag_policy_action
  • We have also taken the lead on two proposed federal bills (S. 103 & H.R. 482) that would prohibit the use of federal funding “to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.” We have sent letters to the legislative sponsors and developed a sign-on letter that has been endorsed by over 30 associations and groups, including the NAACP; the National Women’s Studies Association; the Poverty and Race Research Action Council; and the National Collaborative for Health Equity. This letter stated: “It is our belief that this legislation could foster racial discrimination and have far-reaching consequences on federally-sponsored research on racial disparities, as well as on federal human health programs; census issues; education programs, including services for children; federal housing programs; Department of Justice programs; and other critical programs.”
  • The AAG sent a letter to Congressional appropriators opposing deep cuts in the administration’s proposed federal budget. The letter focuses on several agencies, including the EPA, NOAA, the Department of Education, NEH, and NIH. The proposed cuts to these programs are all above 10 percent. In the letter, we stated, “Our nation’s prosperity and continued international status depends on investment in cutting-edge science and education programs that afford all Americans an opportunity to realize their full potential.” We also offered to share the geographic expertise of AAG members and GIS tools to assist in the Congressional analysis of the impacts of the budget proposals.

In addition to these AAG-initiated actions, we have also joined together with multiple other scientific and related groups, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) to oppose threats to geography, science, and academic freedom. Some of these can be found on the Policy Action webpage.

It is also our hope that the #AAGChat will serve as a vehicle to discuss these issues and ways for geographers and friends to get engaged as individual advocates. We always encourage AAG members to write letters to the editor or to their elected officials to share their own views on issues of importance to them. We look forward to offering some thoughts on effective methods of communicating about policies and with policymakers.

On April 22, many AAG members and friends joined thousands of individuals marching for science in Washington, D.C. and around the globe. The heavy turnout for the March for Science, of which the AAG was an official partner, reflected a scientific community that is politically galvanized perhaps like never before.

The March for Science occurred on President Trump’s 93rd day in office. As we reach the 100-day landmark which presidents are traditionally measured by, it seems a good time to reflect on how the new administration has impacted geography and geographers, and in turn on how the AAG is responding to a transformed federal policy environment.

We look forward to a thoughtful discussion with AAG members on May 17! As always, you can contact John Wertman, Senior Program Manager for Government Relations, at jwertman [at] aag [dot] org if you have any questions about the AAG’s policy activities or any issues that affect our discipline.