Ryan Zinke the ‘Geologist’
CNN reports that the Interior Secretary, who claims to be a "geologist," merely has a geology degree.
A rather weird story on CNN (“Ryan Zinke refers to himself as a geologist. That’s a job he’s never held.“):
Defending his decision to shrink the Bears Ears national monument to lawmakers last week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke fell back one of his favorite credentials.
“I’m a geologist,” he said. “I can assure you that oil and gas in Bears Ears was not part of my decision matrix. A geologist will tell you there is little, if any, oil and gas.”
Since becoming leader of the 70,000-employee agency, Zinke has suggested that he was a geologist or former geologist at least 40 times in public settings, including many under oath before Congress.
He uses it as a credential booster, saying things such as, “I can tell you, from a geologist, offshore mining of sand is enormously destructive environmentally, as in comparison to seismic,” as he told the House Natural Resources Committee last month.
And, “Florida is different in the currents — I’m a geologist — it’s different in geology,” in an interview with Breitbart News, defending his decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling.
He also uses it while discussing coal revenue, seismic activity, climate change, national monuments, precious metals, endangered species, fracking and drilling.
In May, he criticized the work of the US Geological Survey, saying at a press conference in Alaska that “I think the assessments of the USGS has done previous, I think they fall short, from a geologist’s point of view.”
Zinke, however, has never held a job as a geologist.
So . . . on what basis does he claim to be a “geologist”?
In his autobiography, Zinke wrote that he majored in geology at the University of Oregon, which he attended on a football scholarship, and chose his major at random.
But that’s untrue?
Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift provided this statement to CNN: “Ryan Zinke graduated with honors with a B.S. in Geology. His intended career path was underwater geology – and he had college jobs to support that career. Upon graduation he was recruited to be an officer in the US Navy SEALs where he proudly served for 23 years and retired with the rank of Commander.”
So, it’s not untrue?
Interior did not answer if Zinke is or has been a member of the American Institute of Professional Geologists or the Association of State Boards of Geologists.
Did he ever claim to be a member of those institutions?
Several geologists who CNN has spoken with have flagged his comments as disingenuous, saying that someone with a 34-year-old degree who never worked in the field is not considered a geologist.
“He seems not to be familiar with modern geologic knowledge,” said Seth Stein, a professor at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. “In particular, geologists now know that the climate is warming rapidly because of human activities. This is is causing many serious problems including rising sea level, which is a major threat to coastal communities.”
In addition, Zinke’s numerous rollbacks of environmental protections, wavering stance on climate change, and allegations by career staff that he surpassed certain reports have at least one Democratic member of Congress asking whether he should be using his college degree as a credibility booster.
Okay, but there are PhD geologists, presumably some members of the discipline’s professional societies, who are climate change denialists. There’s in a distinct minority and almost certainly wrong, but they’re geologists.
This strikes me as a non-story.
A career Navy SEAL who’s a climate change denialist may well be a really poor choice to be Interior Secretary. Indeed, I’m inclined in that direction.
But the “story” here is that a man with a geology degree repeatedly refers to himself as a “geologist.” That seems perfectly legitimate.
As an academic, I tend to look askance at people with undergraduate degrees in political science, history, biology, physics, or whatnot calling themselves “political scientist,” “historian,” “biologist,” “physicists” and the like. I don’t consider them professionals in those fields. But it’s not unreasonable that someone with only an undergraduate degree thinks of themselves in those terms and would describe their expertise in that way.
There are enough scandals in this administration without making them up. Doing so feeds the notion that the press is simply out to get Trump with their “fake news.”