Today we face an increasing chorus of anti-science voices rampant in politics, schools, the doctor’s office and the public. It seems an increasing number of people don’t appreciate science’s relevance; they think it’s a bad word, that it ruins things, that it’s for someone else to do. Many never met a scientist.
For us scientists, our research pursuits are incredibly important. We don’t consider it a job, it’s our life, and we invest everything into it. We are passionate, purposeful and relentless in the pursuit of our objectives. We like questions. We like answers. We like knowledge. We like to understand.
But science permeates your lives, too. It is much more than an intellectual exercise because it leads to a deeper understanding of the world and its basic mechanisms, and function. Science also teaches us to care about the world. Generally, understanding begets caring.
Most of science consists of answering very small questions. Each one may not have much value in and of itself, but when the whole picture is to be seen, the importance of each of those small pixels of knowledge quickly become evident. Research aimed only at solving a specific, well-understood short-term problem is not going to provide us with the answers we need ten or twenty years from now. We need to commit some fraction of our resources, our dollars, to basic science, understanding that it is a risk taking investment; not all science hunches pay off, but when they pay off they pay off big.
Seems straightforward, and yet many believe their lives are not touched by science at all. Perhaps herein lies the fundamental challenge: how to get people enthused about a subject if they don’t see any value or connection to themselves.
Take solid waste for example. Most people do not spend a second thought on what happens to all the stuff they throw away and yet science is once again standing ready to figure out how to best deal with its generation, prevention, characterization, monitoring, treatment, handling, reuse and ultimate residual disposition.
By linking worldwide data on solid waste, population density, and economic status, scientists figured out that of the 275 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons entering the ocean. Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste entering the ocean is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025.
Science has already played a major role in reducing waste, recycle precious raw materials, develop waste to energy conversions, and use bioremediation to prevent toxic substances from entering natural cycles.
Or take sea level rise, which is likely to cause mass migrations that will affect not just the United States’ East Coast, but reshape communities deep in the heart of the country, according to research published in the journal Nature Climate Change. People leaving heavily populated coastal communities inundated by flooding will relocate across the U.S. by 2100, including to landlocked states such as Arizona and Wyoming that are unprepared to accommodate this wave of coastal migrants. We do not exactly know what is going to happen but the important point is that only through research will we find out and can then develop tools and strategies to accommodate all those people who will be displaced from their homes due to sea level rise.
Modern science not only builds spaceships and manipulates atoms, but it also helps people to live and work in a more satisfying and healthy manner. It is not only present when a doctor prescribes a new medicine, but also when you eat potato chips, use a cell phone, or when you asked to wear a mask to help limit there spread of the corona virus.
Science is both fascinating and mysterious. Science is for everyone, everybody uses science, and everyone needs science! It is our collective responsibility to illustrate the very large role scientific research plays in the daily life of every person!
So let’s stand up for Science together. March for Science. Support Science. Scientia potentia est. Knowledge is power. Always.
We all depend on a healthy ocean; a healthy ocean depends on us. Let us be the change we would like to see in the world. Our new Ocean Sentinels Club is proof that conservation can be fun, rewarding and effective. The Club unites and empowers citizens to advocate for the conservation of dolphins and the marine environment across Palm Beach County, and beyond. Join us. The time is now. It begins with you.