Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Endangered Science

In my odyssey toward understanding the real dangers of Pombo's work in the House of Representatives, I came across the writings of Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science.

Mooney seems to be enthused over the prospect of a new Congress without James Inhofe as Chair of the Senate Commimttee on Environment and Public Works (it will be Sen. Boxer) or with Joe Barton as Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He neglected to even mention Pombo, maybe because he was ultimately so ineffective.

There are still many issues that remain and powerful interests that are alreay lining up to lobby Democrats in the same manner as the previously lobbied Republicans. Speaker to be Pelosi promised lobby reform in the first 100 hrs of a new Democratic House. We need to watch how powerful she really is and whether she can actually deliver on that promise.

Mooney feels that the scientific issues are fundamentally partisan, that the Democrats are on the side of truth and the Republicans are not.
...the treatment of specific science-related issues--global warming, embryonic stem cell research, etc--will also change. In short, we're going to be in a very different world in terms of the relationship between politics and science in the United States. Some good old checks and balances will be coming into force--thank goodness.

By the way, all of this is proof enough--as if anyone ever needed any--that many core aspects of science policy are fundamentally partisan in the currrent political climate. That's why we expect them to change when Congress changes hands.
This is where I feel Mooney has too much faith in the power of scientific reasoning and too little apprehension about the power of money. The think tanks that fed the Republican agenda all had proper sounding names. The Annapolis Center for Science Based Public Policy was truthfully funded by Exxon-Mobil and the Pharmeceutical Industry. Their agenda had little to do with science, but rather they existed only to turn the term "sound science" into a code word for "scientists do not know everything so trust us."

The problems of land use, water use, agricultural land retention, energy and global warming can not be totally separated. There will be many special interests who will tell us all that there is no "sound science" on which to base any policy decisions. What that means is that we are supposed to deprive ourselves of the best tools available for shaping those decisions and rely on their judgement, not our own.

Greens need to demand that we start using the best science currently available in order to shape policy. Once we do, we have a chance to establish some sort of environmental justice in this country. Until we do, we have no chance.

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