Issues in Science and Technology Volume XXXIII Issue 3, Spring 2017
by Clark A. Miller Full article here
…Science is, for today’s conservatives, an instrument of federal power. They attack science’s forms of truth-making, its databases, and its budgets not out of a rejection of either science or truth, but as part of a coherent strategy to weaken the power of the federal agencies that rely on them….Over the course of the twentieth century, the prominence of experts in legitimizing federal government power have persisted and deepened. ..
…Given this history, it should hardly surprise us that the major environmental controversy of the past quarter-century has largely played out as a battle over science. Climate change is a phenomenon knowable only through science…
…It is not an accident that “experts” have become the enemy of those who feel left behind in the United States and Europe. The twentieth century’s most powerful forms of government have been built on the backs of experts. When that trend began, experts provided a powerful service for democratic publics, helping to create new government agencies that could balance the power of the massive new business organizations created by industrialization. Science and expertise created the appearance of taking issues out of the realms of politics and onto more neutral terrain. The recognition that this was largely illusion—and that politics remained central to the exercise of science-based government—took a while to register. Today is a different world. Authorized and powered by science, data, and expertise, the US federal government is now arguably the most powerful institution on the planet….
…Science, business, and government have together made the modern world what it is. All three must step up to ensure that future societies are worth inhabiting—and they must do so in concert with global publics. None of the three can any longer pretend that they stand outside politics. Democracy depends on it. So does the future our children will inherit.
Yale Climate Connections analyzed 66 answers describing the motivation behind the conversion. The biggest reason was a slow acceptance of clear scientific evidence [then risk of environmental damage, erratic weather and climate deniers’ lack of credibility]…..
…Seeing graphs of atmospheric carbon dioxde and overwhelming data supporting the conclusion that humans are rapidly, catastrophically warming the planet was convincing for many.…The desire to safeguard the Earth, evidence of extreme weather, and dubious sources among climate change deniers sealed the deal for most of the rest.
But why did people reject climate change in the first place? Family was the most common reason. “Mostly because my family rigorously shot it down whenever it was remotely mentioned,” one person wrote… But personal politics and identity were a close second (and are cited as top reasons in other studies)…
…people tend to reject the validity of scientific evidence when it conflicts with their deeply held world-views. Instead, suggests Kahan in Mother Jones, present information in ways that already align with people’s beliefs without triggering emotional, defensive responses.
Kahan tested this concept by showing people of various viewpoints two fake newspaper articles: “Scientific Panel Recommends Anti-Pollution Solution to Global Warming” and “Scientific Panel Recommends Nuclear Solution to Global Warming.” For conservative individuals (” hierarchical individualists” in the study) who doubted climate change, the second article was far more effective at convincing them that humans caused global warming. Kahan suspects this is because the science was presented in an existing pro-industry narrative.
…Following Australia’s first budget under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Australia similarly saw climate change shifted off the agenda. Its impact on the aid budget saw climate change downplayed as a priority, with terms trickling into programs associated with natural disasters, food security and agriculture.
For Pacific Island countries, climate adaption can include preparing for theincreasing onset of natural disasters by building infrastructure, response systems and strategies. It can also include preparing communities with health-related training and equipment to save lives following a natural disaster.
The concern of not investing in these program is that unprepared communities will see loss of life and more money will be required to help them to recover. These are important programs to continue.
By reframing climate adaptation programs as disaster resilience programs, the conversation can change to responding to natural disasters in a cheaper and more effective manner — before the disaster hits and large sums of money are required as part of a humanitarian response.
From clean energy and low emissions to economical living
An important component of the aid program is clean energy projects focused on delivering solar and renewable power, services, and technology to people living in remote and rural communities.
A key factor in the success of these programs is not only their ability to deliver green solutions, but their approach to delivering critical infrastructure without building large systems delivering to entire regions or countries.
And they are important in building agricultural capability, empowering women, creating strong economies and building future trading partners.
The economic feasibility of these programs may be an important factor in maintaining them in the long and short term.
From climate science to knowledge sharing
While there will never be a replacement for direct funds to countries, adjusting scientific programs that encourage knowledge sharing could reduce program budgets while building capacity in developing countries.
Monitoring carbon emissions, mapping forests and monitoring changes to flora and fauna requires specialized knowledge that should exist within a developing country for sustainability of a program.
It is not only financially beneficial but can create ongoing mentoring networks maintained after programs end.
A focus on food security and building agriculture markets
The ability to feed future populations is directly linked to farming communities adapting to changing climate and environmental conditions. But if we keep climate out of it, we can focus purely on the ability to deliver new approaches and measures to generate higher yield from crops and produce nutritious options to prevent a range of diseases, including those associated with obesity.
Increasing yield and the quality of outputs not only improves the ability to feed global populations, it builds agricultural markets and stronger economies in developing countries.
Food security programs, meanwhile, not only secure future food needs of developing countries, but also of Americans.
Point Blue supports its staff in advocating for science and attending the March for Science, April 22, 2017
March 10, 2017 by Ellie Cohen
Recent efforts to silence government scientists and decimate research budgets, particularly around climate change, are deeply disturbing. These attacks raise serious questions about the role of scientists in a democracy. Should scientists advocate for science? Or by doing so, do they add to fuel to the fire of partisan politics and weaken public support for science?
There is a growing movement to speak out within the science community. A recent march in Boston drew thousands with placards including Science not Silence, Science Does Not Discriminate, and Facts Matter. The next focal point is the “March for Science” in Washington, DC and across the country, on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22. It is endorsed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Ecological Society of America, among others.
Science is inherently non-partisan, built on systematic, transparent and peer-reviewed inquiry, observation and evidence. In that light, I believe scientists should advocate for science and scientific findings. However, there is an enormous divide between how most scientists view the world versus the general public. Scientists need to significantly improve how we communicate what we do and the value of our work to society.
The March is an opportunity to instruct and catalyze scientists to reach out across the political and social spectrum. Just as science builds bridges across cultural divides in ways that few other disciplines can, the March for Science offers an opportunity for cross-boundary community-building. It is a chance to tell our stories about how science drives human understanding, economic innovation and our collective well-being.
The March also provides a platform to communicate the foundational nature of science to a healthy, vibrant democracy. We need to share how science helps humanity discover and illuminate truths upon which policy makers can act to better the lives of the people they serve.
It seems to me that advocating for science is especially urgent today in the face of accelerating climate change and the loss of ecosystem services which threaten life as we know it.
Along the lines of Rabbi Hillel’s sage words from 2,000 years ago, if scientists don’t stand up for science, who will? And what better time than now?
From George Washington to Barack Obama, in the words of both Republicans and Democrats, our presidents express continuity in their thinking about the essential role of science in American society. Below are 8 of my favorite quotes and why I think each one is important. I invite you to share your favorite patriotic quotes about science and democracy in the comments…
….2) “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” James Madison. Epilogue: Securing the Republic. Chapter 18.
Madison rocks!! That is all. Go read the quote again. Madison wouldn’t know what “rocks” means, but he’d ask questions and figure it out. We need the tools to do that, too. In today’s world, access to “popular information” means transparency. It means public access to information—this kind and this kind. It means education. It means science literacy, effective science communication, and scientists engaging with policy makers and fellow citizens every chance they get.
1) “Now and in the years ahead, we need, more than anything else, the honest and uncompromising common sense of science. Science means a method of thought. That method is characterized by open-mindedness, honesty, perseverance, and, above all, by an unflinching passion for knowledge and truth. When more of the peoples of the world have learned the ways of thought of the scientist, we shall have better reason to expect lasting peace and a fuller life for all.” Harry S. Truman, “Address to the Centennial Anniversary AAAS Annual Meeting (1948)”
What I like about Truman’s message is its democratizing spirit. Truman is saying that you don’t have to be a scientist in order to think like one. And he is saying that those qualities—those habits of mind—that bring us greater scientific knowledge are the same that bring us greater peace and prosperity.
March 6, 2017 Like many of you, I have found it hard to know how to react to the style, tone, and substance of the new administration in Washington….Unfortunately, the absence of science and scientists in the Trump administration has not changed. Likewise, Trump’s actions on environmental policy have been consistent with all earlier indications….So how should we – the 10,000 members of ESA – react?
First, what binds ESA members together is our respect for science, commitment to rigorous peer review and publication of research, and a desire to see our science interpreted and used appropriately. We must continue to advocate – more strongly than ever – that representatives of science and rigorous scientific analysis are essential to policy-making. Call, write, and visit your local, state, and national representatives and your senators. Consider participating in or otherwise supporting April’s March for Science.
Second, we must not allow ourselves to be arrogant or make it easy for others to perceive us that way. Science must be at the policy-making table, but in a democracy, many diverse considerations belong at the decision-making table. We must be more aggressive promoters of science, but we must simultaneously be humble in recognition that our unique role is not solely important….
Third, we must seek to understand and engage respectfully with our family members, neighbors, and other fellow citizens at work, on the street, and in community groups who share President Trump’s enthusiasm for reversing environmental regulations….Double-down on your engagement in outreach and education.
Fourth, we must remind our elected officials at all levels and our fellow citizens that the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the Montreal Protocol have dramatically improved human health and well-being in the last 45 years. Los Angeles, Gary, IN and New York City were not healthy places to breath and swim in 1970. In Cleveland, the oily pollution floating on the Cuyahoga River caught on fire. Acid rain had wiped out the fish in many Adirondack lakes. Bald eagles and brown pelicans were on the verge of extinction. An ozone hole was growing over Antarctica and increasing skin cancer in humans. Scientific research provided the diagnoses of these problems and informed the solutions….
Finally, we must alert our fellow citizens that science and technology are already driving economic booms in other countries…
….The staff and leadership of ESA will stay the course for science, speaking with both confidence in the rigor and value of our mission, and with humility as only one important voice in our robust democracy. We have waited, and now it is time for ESA to be seen and be heard. I encourage each member of ESA to do the same.
President Trump’s decision to constrain and muzzle scientific research signals an important milestone. The War on Science has shifted into high gear. This is a fight for our future, and scientists as well as citizens had better prepare for what is coming next.
At his confirmation hearings last week, the new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unveiled the new language of this war—a subtle, yet potentially damaging form of science skepticism. Manmade climate change, he says, is “subject to continuing debate.” There is reason to be concerned about methane released by fracking, but he’s “not deeply concerned.” And research on lead poisoning is “not something [he has] looked into.”
These might sound like quibbles compared to the larger cultural and political upheavals happening in America today, but collectively, they add up to something big.
The systematic use of so-called “uncertainty” surrounding well-established scientific ideas has proven to be a reliable method for manipulating public perception and stalling political action. And while certain private interests and their political allies may benefit from these tactics, the damages are something we will all have to face.
Make no mistake: the War on Science is going to affect you, whether you are a scientist or not. It is going to affect everything—ranging from the safety of the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the kind of planet we live on. It will affect the kinds of diseases we get and the medicines we can use. It will determine our safety and security, and the privacy of our data and personal lives. It will dictate what our kids are taught in our schools, what is discussed in the news, and what is debated in the halls of Congress. It will affect the jobs we have, the kind of industries that thrive here, and what powers our economy.
The reality is that science touches everything we do, and everyone we love, which is why the War on Science is so deadly serious. This is a war that needs to be won. But in order to do so, scientists and science supporters—including those participating in the upcoming March for Science—need to take a new tack.
Here, to start with, is what we recommend:
Portray an Inclusive Vision…
Do Get Political…
Don’t Fall into the “Culture War” Trap…
Balance Facts with Meaningful Stories…
At its heart, the War on Science is often an attempt to de-regulate industry and weaken environmental laws. Stifling science—especially on topics like climate change, toxic pollution, unsustainable agriculture, and animal welfare—is part of a ploy to undermine these safeguards, and to cast doubt on inconvenient scientific truths, all in the service of profits and power.
It’s time to call out this merciless greed and ignorance. The short-term gains of a few corporations and individuals must no longer rise above our national interests, our long-term economic competitiveness, and most importantly, our individual safety, health and wellbeing.
So, let’s not be timid. Let’s call things as they are.
America has a choice to make. A choice between advancing civilization or bringing it down. A choice between knowledge and chaos.
The head of the world’s largest scientific membership organisation has given his backing for a planned protest by researchers in Washington DC.
Rush Holt, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), said that people were “standing up for science”.
His remarks reflect growing concern among researchers that science is disregarded by President Trump.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire career,” the former Democratic congressman told BBC News.
“To see young scientists, older scientists, the general public speaking up for the idea of science. We are going to work with our members and affiliated organisations to see that this march for science is a success.”…
The current political climate has spurred a growing cadre of scientists to emerge from their labs, offices and fieldwork sites to contest an administration that’s openly hostile to scientific inquiry — particularly when it comes to climate change — and coined the term “alternative facts.”
..The March for Science is the most visible piece of the new movement, with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, a private planning Facebook group with more than 837,000 members and more than 50,000 volunteers. The march has the potential to go down as one of the largest mass mobilizations by scientists in history.
It’s also faced some challenges both internally and externally. Planners have been debating appropriate symbols….some scientists have argued that taking to the streets puts the scientific enterprise in jeopardy of being seen as too politicized. Robert Young, a coastal geologist, crystallized that sentiment in a New York Times op-ed in late January.
“Trying to recreate the pointedly political Women’s March will serve only to reinforce the narrative from skeptical conservatives that scientists are an interest group and politicize their data, research and findings for their own ends,” he wrote…. Ziad Munson, an expert in conservative social movements from Lehigh University, said. “Yes there is a danger of politicizing science, but the question is whether or not that ship has already sailed.”…
…Social science researchers say that getting involved is only part of the equation, and that scientists will need messages — and actions — that resonate.
On Saturday morning, the white stone buildings on UC Berkeley’s campus radiated with unfiltered sunshine. But instead of enjoying the beautiful day, 200 adults had willingly sardined themselves into a fluorescent-lit room in the bowels of Doe Library to rescue federal climate data. …Groups like DataRefuge and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which organized the Berkeley hackathon to collect data from NASA’s earth sciences programs and the Department of Energy, are doing more than archiving. Diehard coders are building robust systems to monitor ongoing changes to government websites. And they’re keeping track of what’s already been removed—because yes, the pruning has already begun…..