By Katie Miller
In many ways, the Environmental Protection Agency was exactly what I expected when I arrived as a summer intern in June: cubicles decorated with pictures of polar bears, employees who made actual small talk about the environment, acronyms for everything. But there were clues that this was an agency under siege in the Trump administration, and before my time there had ended, I saw them firsthand.
Just under the surface, fear and loathing had taken hold. My colleagues lowered their voices to discuss political matters, but they talked openly about “before” and “after,” referring to the inauguration. Some seemed to put on a mask at work, clenching their teeth and smiling every time the new administration came up in conversation. One man told me he’d worked at the EPA during many administrations and had never felt so discouraged. No wonder more than 700 people, including more than 200 scientists, have left since President Trump took office.
After an orientation with the other summer interns, I focused on my work on the communications team for the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, part of the Office of Land and Emergency Management. My first job was to update the titles and summaries of Federal Register notices using plain language and an active voice. I spent time entering numbers into an Excel spreadsheet. I responded to citizen inquiries, edited documents, made calls, attended meetings. Intern stuff.
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