Today, April 22nd, is Earth Day and right now thousands of people are gathering to march together to show support for science in DC and in more than 600 other places around the world. Historians say this is “unprecedented”. Ladies of garden clubs will be there too.
Earth Day is the material consequence of public maturity: the value placed on environmentalism, of our natural wilderness and a hard-won understanding of the degradation and destruction wrought on our health and welfare when unfettered private interests are given free reign to place profits above all else.
The enlightened conservationists have graduated from the earliest view that all our natural world was merely to be held like a storage locker for later harvest to an understanding of humanity’s position at the center of a web of life where all is interrelated and dependent. This expansion of consciousness meant a step away from viewing the earth or our national piece of it in terms of our own personal advantage without regard for others. Right now, there is a war between the past viewpoint of freedom to exploit and the inclusive understanding of One Earth and our responsibility to humanity.
One way this war is manifesting is in the denigration of science itself, of universities and government servants–in particular those who are scientists —in fact making it between “pointy-head intellectuals” and the “real American” as determined by politicians. Yet science, represented by the mind, is meant to be dispassionate. The whole scientific method consists of “systematic observation, measurement, and experiment. Then comes the formulation, testing and modification of hypothesis. Scientists work across national borders which promotes an international perspective. They rely on peer review to evaluate their findings.
What has happened is a retrogression fomented by a confluence of business interests, politicians and big money who see an opportunity to “get the goods” while the stars align, especially in this new turmoil-filled administration. They provide the money behind the disinformation campaigns against scientific findings, provide loudspeakers to agents of narrow nationalism to influence outcomes in their favor and interfere with the ethics of agency workings.
Many scientists, especially those involved in cancer research, chemical effects or food, have said that they are experiencing political interference in their work. They are being restricted from publishing or reporting their research, told to delete specific paragraphs, censored, suppressed from investigating certain areas and are having funding taken away.
If research findings get beyond this, the White House aides may refuse to accept or even open communications from agencies to prevent findings from entering public record. They may force the agency to “take back” its finding or rewrite it.
Right now, many appointees actively hostile to the agencies they are set to oversee is another bad sign as the mission to hinder, obstruct and destroy seems obvious. We should be greatly concerned over this danger to the public welfare in agencies in charge of our clean air, water and health like the EPA. But this is what happens when government is run “like a business” and where freedom becomes license to act selfishly against public good.
Within an agency that has oversight, how might the confluence of government and business specifically undermine scientists who have found out something the business or industry does not want to hear or deal with?
1. Influence the appointment of the agency head—one that is most amenable to them
2. Inappropriate communications beyond the allowed public interest statements at committee sessions, sharing talking points, memos, strategy. Getting tip-offs from inside the agency to the business.
3. Attack the credibility of the scientists despite all evidence to the contrary from multiple scientific groups. Call it “Agenda Driven” or “Fake Science”.
4. “Hire a Scientist” to ghost-write counterfeit research to counter the real thing. Get some paid academics to sign off, add their names. Keep mum about being the real funder behind it all.
5. Undermine and delay the scientific peer panels who review the papers and the findings. In fact, influence who gets on the panel and their proportional numbers to favor the business. Get a Congressman or Senator to put his weight on this. Give campaign funds.
6. Loudly cast doubts on the results of the findings or the review (if not in the business’ favor). Disparage the scientists in any way possible, to make their findings seem dodgy.
7. Get your associated lobbyists involved. Attack the scientific integrity of the study. Demand a new panel of experts (backdoor traces to the business or calling in favors owed).
8. Have PR arms spread false information and covert rumors that will influence the public opinion, develop catchy memes that combine other hot buttons like: “Scientists are pointy headed intellectual bureaucrats who hate freedom.”
So, we go from where the scientists engaged in the pure research come up against business/money interests if the findings are not in the business’ favor. Then the political element is introduced which adds in people with emotional OPINIONS and not the actual data or background knowledge to make sense of it, instigating and perpetuating an attitude for Facebook or other viral spread. Rebirth of Know-Nothingness, loss of standards and “big money” smiles while pulling strings.
The March for Science on Earth Day is a public outcry in defense of independent and transparent science. And to object to the obvious takeover of our government by raw business interests like big oil who stand to gain by shutting down and impugning the research of scientists engaged in the public interest. Especially in issues like climate change…
We stand in a chaotic present of manufactured illusions produced by vested interests who lack long term vision and who do not have the well being of humanity in their plans. We cannot stay still and ignore what is happening. We must clear our minds and press forward towards the future. And it is one that is larger than our own national interests. Be concerned. Be very concerned.
In memory of my friend Mark Sutton:
“I like being asked questions. Questions make me think. I like thinking.”