Thursday, March 21, 2013

What is a scientist to do?

Sandra Steingraber's powerful essay in the current issue of Orion Magazine questions the "Silence of Science" while remarking on the "eloquent activism of people of faith."  If you, as a scientist, understand the risks and potential hazards of, say, removing brine water from deep underground chambers in order to store highly toxic and flammable waste materials from hydraulic fracturing, are you obliged to make those risks known to the general public and policy makers?  Steingraber expresses her frustration:
"Even the scientists whose own research shows harm from drilling and fracking operations are hesitant to speak out. Some fear loss of grant money. Some believe their objectivity will be questioned—as though objectivity and neutrality were the same thing. Some are just so, so busy. And some believe fracking is inevitable. The result is political silence, a stunning position for physicians under oath and other medical professionals studying such things as cancer-causing chemicals." 
She makes a strong case for the importance of educating others with well-researched data and supporting activists who need unbiased information.

The  Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Orion Magazine feature story by Paul Kingsnorth makes the provocative statement "Technology isn't going to save us, but neither is environmentalism."  Entitled Dark Ecology, his essay also comes to the point of individual responsibility:
"What does the near future look like? I’d put my bets on a strange and unworldly combination of ongoing collapse, which will continue to fragment both nature and culture, and a new wave of techno-green “solutions” being unveiled in a doomed attempt to prevent it... If you don’t like any of this, but you know you can’t stop it, where does it leave you? The answer is that it leaves you with an obligation to be honest about where you are in history’s great cycle, and what you have the power to do and what you don’t."
The entire issue is well-worth the reader's time and thoughtful consideration.

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