The Monkey Wrench Brigade joins a national effort to hold the line on climate change
By Gary Walker
Scientists and conservationists alike were aghast when presidential candidate Donald Trump described climate change as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government.
As president, Trump continues to deny the existence of climate change in word and deed. On March 29, he signed an executive order to suspend, revise or rescind much of the climate regulations put in place during President Obama’s tenure, leaving members of the scientific community stunned, angry and motivated to take action.
Horrified by the potential loss of existing environmental protections, a group of Santa Monica activists are hoping to throw a figurative monkey wrench into the administration’s plans by joining Saturday’s national day of protest in defense of science.
The Monkey Wrench Brigade is a group of Westside residents from disparate professional backgrounds who find common ground in their respect for science and passion for environmental preservation. A subgroup of the progressive Courage Campaign, which claims 1.3 million followers, the brigade is just one of many neighborhood-level groups taking their cause where movements usually go: to the streets.
Inspired in large part by the Los Angeles Women’s March in January and successive displays of political activism, the brigade will be part of Saturday’s March for Science Los Angeles. The rally is one of some 400 Earth Day events around the country designed to protest cuts to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which also funds state and local efforts to combat sea level rise and habitat degradation.
The team adopted the moniker after hearing Los Angeles County Supervisor Shelia Kuehl urge constituents and public officials after the November election to “throw a monkey wrench in this new administration’s plans.”
Santa Monica resident Ann Isolde heard about a Courage Campaign meeting at the Santa Monica Library earlier this year and quickly joined the effort to put Kuehl’s advice into action.
“It’s really frightening to see what’s going on. We’ve reached some important tipping points,” said Isolde, 72. “I can’t sit idly by and pretend that everything’s all fine when it’s not.”
In many ways, the climate change protest is a continuation of what has become a relentless campaign of resistance to the Trump administration’s executive orders, policy positions and budget priorities.
Like many of her friends, 32-year-old marketing manager Carolyn Kiefer was dismayed after the Nov. 8 election results and felt disillusioned about politics. But then she heard about the Monkey Wrench Brigade.
“After the election I felt a real duty to get more involved and to make my voice heard. Rather than feel hopeless, I felt that this was call to action,” said Kiefer, a Mar Vista resident. “The idea was to be more active and not be passive.”
Molecular biology student Alex Bradley, a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA, is the lead organizer of March for Science Los Angeles.
“Our primary goal is to emphasize science in driving policy decisions. We want to drive that home. We’re concerned that there’s been this trend that the pursuit of ideological agenda is superseding the appreciation for scientific fact in the interest of environment and public health. We want to reverse that trend,” Bradley told the online publication City Watch LA.
For Monkey Wrench Brigade member Kathy Seal, a writer who specializes in parenting issues, policies that ignore science-based data are dangerous for society at large.
“It’s important for everyone to respect and treasure science. Ignoring and questioning scientific fact after it has been peer-reviewed is playing with fire and harming humanity” asserted Seal, 69.
Dale Kiefer, 73, is a marine biologist at the University of Southern California. His research, which includes using satellite imagery to monitor extreme weather patterns such as El Niño and La Niña, could be directly affected by the proposed EPA cutbacks.
“Without information from satellites we’re going to have both of our hands tied behind our backs,” said Kiefer, who is Carolyn Kiefer’s father. “We’re at critical thresholds in a lot of areas.”
As a scientist, Kiefer is amazed and appalled at what he sees as an administration-wide ignorance about the importance of science.
“The whole goal of science is to find truth. Without truth, you cannot make sound policy about the future,” he noted.
Isolde, who participated in the Women’s March, takes inspiration in how that protest was received worldwide and thinks the same can happen with a strong turnout on Saturday.
“It’s like dropping a stone into a lake. It’s going to reverberate and have an impact,” she said.
Although defending science is the goal of the march, Dale Kiefer said the rally’s undertones are undeniable.
“I can’t see it as anything but a political march,” he said.
For Carolyn Kiefer, who also took part in the Women’s March, the March for Science is a now-or-never moment.
“You either choose to go to sleep and keep your eyes shut or you wake up and start fighting for what you believe in,” she asserted. “And I’m going to fight.”
The March for Science Los Angeles starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 22, from Pershing Square and concludes at 4 p.m. at Los Angeles City Hall. Visit marchforsciencela.com.