Sharing words from a federal scientist.
Today is my 3rd anniversary as a federal civil servant. I work as a biologist and decision analyst for an environmental conservation agency. To become qualified to do this work, I earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a doctorate, and two years of post-doctoral training. Respectively, that equals 14 years of higher education. And I am not unique. Rather, I’m daft compared to my colleagues. They’ve got the book-smarts plus the experience and institutional knowledge that is only gained through time in Service. I feel so very lucky to be surrounded by such highly-qualified, intelligent, and dedicated professionals.
Today should be a proud day. A day of celebration. Instead, I feel sick. And demoralized. Gag orders on federal scientists? Government professionals being targeted for their work on climate change? That’s me. That’s my colleagues. We are the “swamp” that our new president keeps referring to, and I am disgusted and offended by his reference to our contribution and commitment to Public Service. Though, as an ecologist, I can’t help but point out that swamps are highly productive and important ecosystems, and draining them leads to disasters like Katrina… a point totally lost on our president.
And then there’s the issue of jobs. Our new president says he wants to bring back jobs. Which makes me wonder, do our jobs not count? Does the American public truly believe that 3 million civil servants deserve to be treated as though we’re contestants on some reality show? The myth of the “lazy, entitled” federal employee is just that. A myth. Because we exist in a consistently under-funded, not-for-profit workplace, we must do the work of two or three people to meet our performance objectives. Our workplace is a fast-paced and industrious environment. One in which we constantly struggle, like the rest of you, to find some measure of work-life balance.
The difference, I think, is that when we go to work everyday, our objective is not to maximize the number of dollars in our personal bank accounts. Nobody gets into this business for the fortune. There is no fortune for a career civil servant. We make the commitment to serve because we care deeply about social justice. My goal at work is to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. I am exceedingly aware that my salary comes from tax-payer dollars. I could not go to work if I thought those dollars weren’t benefiting the citizens of this country. And guess what? I pay taxes too.