Monday, April 17, 2017

U.S. at crossroads: free science from politics and join the March for Science

The complacency by too many Americans while their government is gutting science harkens back to those onerous days in the 1850’s when our fragmented country tried tooth and nail to hold on to slavery—despite the evil. Russia (1723) and the British Empire (1808) had abolished slavery. New York State had made slavery illegal in 1827.

Yet, at the federal level: “Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave-holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers”(Wikipedia). Though most people believed that slavery was truly evil by the 1850’s, most of the public still sat on the sidelines until they were forced into the fray with their very lives, the Civil War, where 600,000 people perished.

The war was terrible; it wasn’t inevitable; it could have been prevented had it not been part of our compromised Constitution. We could have given into our better angels. But we didn’t.

The Three-Fifths Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution, which reads: Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. (Wikipedia)

Those in the middle, those who stayed quiet while slavery raged on, were forced off the sidelines anyways with a war that might have been prevented if more had spoken up sooner.  The Abolitionists did get off the sidelines, but these relative few were accused of causing violence instead of trying to right a wrong. (What if everyone had joined the Abolitionists early on? What if everyone just got off the sidelines at crucial moments in human history?) 

We are at a crossroads again.

This time it’s about not so much a great divide on the value we place on people’s lives as how we shall govern at all. Will science form the backbone of our country or will we succumb to a relatively small group’s ideology? Will our government base its decisions on our accumulated knowledge and science, or cherry-pick fact and fiction to suit a minority’s agenda? Will science be the priority it has been for two centuries in this country, or will we give up and condemn future generations to hell?

Those in the middle now, those staying quiet while science is being gutted are going to be affected whether they think so or not. There may not be a war, but we will be much inconvenienced by a planet warming up far quicker than our species has ever experienced. There are no sidelines in science.

The Fugitive Slave Act was an attempt at compromise on an issue where there was (and is) no compromise. This law placed the Northern states in the impossible position of sending free Americans to a region of the country where they would be returned to slavery. With the growing turmoil, our country in the 1850’s was finally having to face our original sin: How could we promote our country around the world as a free nation when we were enslaving millions of our people? We couldn’t. It was one or the other. No middle ground. Our founding ideals was either true, or they were a lie.  

Sitting home and doing nothing on Earth Day to stop the federal government from muzzling scientists is akin to allowing the Fugitive Slave Law to stand. Because powerful ideologies in Washington really want to rip out science by the roots, all of us must now #StandUpForScience:

Scott Pruitt Faces Anger From Right Over E.P.A. Finding He Won’t Fight When President Trump chose the Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, his mission was clear: Carry out Mr. Trump’s campaign vows to radically reduce the size and scope of the agency and take apart President Barack Obama’s ambitious climate change policies. In his first weeks on the job, Mr. Pruitt drew glowing praise from foes of Mr. Obama’s agenda against global warming, as he moved to roll back its centerpiece, known as the Clean Power Plan, and expressed agreement with those who said the E.P.A. should be eliminated. His actions and statements have galvanized protests from environmentalists and others on the left. But now a growing chorus of critics on the other end of the political spectrum say Mr. Pruitt has not gone far enough. In particular, they are angry that he has refused to challenge a landmark agency determination known as the endangerment finding, which provides the legal basis for Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan and other global warming policies. (April 12, 2017) New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

Pruitt hasn’t done enough damage to our county? Please. EPA boss: US should exit Paris climate agreement, April 13, 2017 Climate Home)

We must free Science from Politics

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL nails it: A country as large and complicated as ours must get on the same page on science. 

Nelson, near Trump’s Palm Beach resort, calls for end to attacks on climate science  Three years after he held a field hearing in Miami Beach to draw attention to a region at ground zero for climate change, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson convened a second hearing in West Palm Beach on Monday with a new target: the Trump administration’s attack on climate science. Held just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s vulnerable island retreat, the hearing highlighted worsening conditions — and the need to free science from politics. “There are people trying to muzzle scientists. I’ve seen it in Washington. I’ve seen it here in the state of Florida,” said Nelson, a Democrat and the state’s former insurance commissioner. (April 10, 2017) Miami Herald [more on Climate Change in our area]

The essential problem

How far will the ideologues get before the public stands up? Science, however powerful a discipline, does not automatically motivate humanity. For example, how many freaking times does your river have to catch on fire before you act?

“The Cuyahoga River was once one of the most polluted rivers in the United States. It has caught fire a total of 13 times dating back to 1868, including this blaze in 1952 which caused over $1.3 million in damages.” HOW A BURNING RIVER HELPED CREATE THE CLEAN WATER ACT (April 14, 2016 The Alleghany Front)

We can depend on science for a lot of things. In fact, it was science that helped lift humanity out of the Dark Ages and moved us into the Age of Enlightenment. But obviously, we cannot depend on science to overcome our Janus-faced tendency towards the love truth and also an inclination to revert back to our gut reactions—fear and mysticism. To do that we need everyone out in the streets this Earth Day to March for Science, Saturday, April 22, 2017.

Act

We cannot wait for public opinion to someday reach a tipping point; the time is now to right our course. For the March for Science in Rochester:


ROCHESTER MARCH FOR SCIENCE Marchers will gather at Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park at Manhattan Square at 9:30AM on April 22nd. At 10:30AM, we will begin marching towards the Hyatt Regency. Upon arriving at the Hyatt, you are cordially invited to attend the first Rochester Science Expo. Please visit our facebook page to RSVP to the event!

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