An unprecedented number of scientists have their sights set on various U.S. political posts in 2018. Their hope? Preventing the nation from contributing to environmental destruction by way of willful ignorance. Since taking office, President Donald Trump and his cohorts have made a habit of mocking and flat-out denying the legitimacy of climate change with attempts to derail crucial conversations surrounding the protection and preservation of natural resources.

Last year, we expressed the importance of addressing climate change at the local level, so it is encouraging to hear that an overwhelming number of experts from the science, technology, engineering and math communities intend to infiltrate the political arena and effect change from within by becoming policy implementers.

According to Grist, 314 Action estimates the number of STEM candidates running for federal office to be more than 60. Upwards of 200 candidates are running for state legislature, with an additional 200 contending for positions on local school boards.

This influx of STEM candidates vying for political posts offers a glimmer of hope to those of us who are completely aghast at the daily accumulation of climate-denying rhetoric.

This influx of STEM candidates vying for political posts offers a glimmer of hope to those of us who are completely aghast at the daily accumulation of climate-denying rhetoric.

Despite a public rundown on the dangers of climate change issued by Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, the current administration persists with a reckless agenda that dates back to (and beyond) the president’s decision to sever U.S. ties with the Paris agreement. Prior to this warning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions denied carbon dioxide is a pollutant, and since then, Secretary Ryan Zinke of the U.S. Department of the Interior has minimized the epidemic of melting glaciers in Glacier National Park—despite scientists blaming the global phenomenon for changing the shape of the Earth’s crust. More recently, Trump proposed a new budget and infrastructure for national parks, an ill-fated strategy that will practically eliminate the Land and Water Conservation Fund, according to The Hill. Also facing substantial funding cuts are the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the latter of which financial support stands to be scaled back by 66 percent in 2019, the Washington Post reports. Finally, the EPA is set to address the proposed repeal of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in a series of listening sessions that begin this week and continue through the end of March.

The STEM specialists running for public office are fully aware of the fact that they are facing a monumental task.

“Those seeking to change to status quo will face many difficulties due to lack of general scientific education among the public,” says Dr. Michael Pravica, physics professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “They will also face challenges in finding financial backing in an era where the middle class is being destroyed and where large corporations would rather have pliable servants as our leaders rather than true leaders, deep thinkers and problem solvers.” 

Fortunately, candidates like Anita Malik are prepared to utilize an innovative approach to bring their political plans to fruition. The former marketing tech executive is running for Congress in Arizona’s 6th district.

“The establishment views campaigning as a money game,” Malik tells Playboy in an email. “But since my team comes from tech, our campaign isn’t following traditional rules. We know how to use digital communication effectively, how to parse data efficiently and how to run a campaign unique to our district’s needs.” Once elected, where can we expect STEM specialists to focus their efforts?

In addition to legislation that “encourages the development of alternative energy sources” and regulates environmentally harmful damage caused by processes like fracking, candidates will be effective in several other areas, Pravica explains. “More legislation would be enacted to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure—particularly our rail and internet—instead of wasting money fighting illegal wars in faraway lands.  Laws would be enacted to improve bike lanes [and] pedestrian thoroughfares to encourage people to use their greenhouse-producing vehicles less and improve the general health of the population.  In other words, more logical, well thought-out, and less emotionally-based policies.”

Malik agrees with the flawed manner in which current elected officials approach solutions, saying that they seem to be more focused on seeking consensus rather than building it. “We need to address how we’re directing money through federal agencies,” Malik adds. “Implementing tech can reduce the cost of healthcare administration, create safer and more accessible voting methods and make clean energy more cost effective.” Malik also plans to address cybersecurity protections and clean energy policies that ensure public safety.

Since we’ve seen how irresponsible and perilous it is to ignore facts, we won’t pretend that the STEM candidates don’t have a steep climb ahead of them. However, we can say we champion the collective effort from people who appear to prioritize the well-being of the planet and its occupants.