5 Ways Scientists Are Making Their Voices Heard
By Andrew Rosenberg
As the Trump administration and the new Congress have gotten down to work, there is a lot of chaos and confusion. But there are a few clear themes:
- There is a concerted attempt to enact by executive order or statute major rollbacks of science-based rules that protect public health, safety and the environment.
- Federal agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, that have been in forefront of scientific work since their creation by Congress, are under attack in their management and proposed budget.
- The new administration and Congress are turning away from public policies grounded in scientific evidence and toward policies that turn over control wholesale to regulated industries.
- The campaign rhetoric of racism, bigotry and misogyny was not just rhetoric.
I don't think I am being overly alarmist. So what is a scientist to do? Just keep your head down and do your science, hoping this particularly troubling time in our national politics will pass? I hope not and I am not alone.
'Keep Your Tiny Hands Off Our Data' https://t.co/GzeV7RW8cA @ScienceNewsOrg @sciam— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1487714424.0
Call to Action
At the February meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science I moderated a town hall meeting on how to respond to this new administration and Congress. The room was packed. So was the overflow into the hall and many others watched online. And there was a lot to talk about, from a new report on Scientific Integrity in government, discussed in a new report led by my colleague Gretchen Goldman, to science in a "post-truth world" an important new essay by panelist Jane Lubchenco. It was not just an incredible panel of thoughtful scientists, but a deeply engaged audience. And everyone spoke to the need for scientists and supporters of science, to be active, engaged and vocal as never before.
Full house at the Union of Concerned Scientists "Defending Science and Scientific Integrity in the Age of Trump" Town Hall during the Boston American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.
Five Opportunities to Stand Up for Science
There are many places, right now, for scientists to stand up and be heard. Here are a few that we, at the Union of Concerned Scientists, are working on. Some are as simple as a tweet. Others might take a day or two of your time. And still others are opportunities to make a difference over the next months and years to push back against those who want to shove science out of the way.
1. As a first small step, those most under the gun are our colleagues working in federal agencies. Never before in my memory have federal scientists faced as daunting a set of challenges in doing their work for the benefit of the nation. They need our support. So why not simply tweet your thanks for the scientist, agency or program in the federal government that you know and love?
2. Our federal colleagues are definitely in a tough spot. But they are the ones that best know what is happening inside our government. Is science being censored? Are political appointees manipulating the results? Are scientific integrity policies being ignored? But for federal employees to speak out may be risky. Let your friends and colleagues know there are secure ways to get information out, anonymously. And there are lawyers willing to help those targeted for blowing the whistle. So too are many journalists willing to tell the story and protect their sources under the 1st Amendment.
3. I don't know about you, but right now I am somewhat obsessively watching the news. And the attacks on science keep coming. We can't necessarily respond to everything, but it is important to be heard on many issues. It is not okay to replace science with "alternative facts." It is not ok to give regulated big corporations an ever greater opportunity to manipulate the rules because they have money to spend to buy influence. We need to watchdog these actions and you can help from where you live all across the country. What can you do? Join our watchdog teams. Use our LinkedIn and Twitter groups to keep up with news about attacks on science and ways to take action.
4. Science and science policy is not just in Washington. We know that, but do your neighbors? Speak out in your community, your local paper and to your elected officials. You can be a scientist, but you are still a constituent—one knowledgeable about technical issues. So use your science and your constituency. Help educate and advocate in your state and our watchdog toolkit will help you get started. Here is one attack you can write to your local paper about right now. There will be more to come, with training and teams of people all around the country working together to fight back.
5. For many of us, we want to write and speak to raise our voices. But many also want to march. Getting out in the street with big crowds of our fellow Americans is another way to stand up for science. Many scientists participated in the Women's March in January. Others went to airports to protest the ban on immigration from majority muslim countries. And in April there are two marches directly calling for scientists. On April 22 participate in the March for Science. There will be training opportunities, such as how to connect with your legislators to defend science, before and after the march itself. And, on April 29 is the People's Climate March. Why not get your steps in and do both? The whole week between the 22 and the 29 will be a week of action in DC with many groups from all around the country participating.
We are long past the point where scientists can sit back and watch the pitch go by.
#Trump's War on #Science Sparks Massive Resistance https://t.co/1Zgu6zhYGY @ScienceMarchDC @MichaelEMann @BillNye @billmckibben @SierraClub— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1485439425.0
In the wise words of my friend Jane Lubchenco, "It is no longer sufficient for scientists in academia, government, nongovernmental organizations or industry to conduct business as usual. Today's challenges demand an all-hands-on-deck approach wherein scientists serve society in a fashion that responds to societal needs and is embedded in everyday lives. Humility, transparency and respect must characterize our interactions."
Stand up for science.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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