Monday, April 24, 2017

And we march on (4/24/2017)

And so the Nation marched for science, scientists, science funding and last but not least for Earth Day.  Yes, we marched as well.  No, we did not go to Washington DC this time but we marched in Norfolk.  Our very lame excuse was that the march ended up at the O’Conner’s microbrewery, which brews some of my favorite beer, like I needed an excuse to visit their tasting room again. 

Marching down Granby Street in Norfolk in the name of Science, Curiosity and Earth Day!
Get-together after the march at O'Connors microbrewery
Whatever my excuse was guys, marching and letting our voices heard was important, and maybe showing up in Norfolk was more important than doing so in DC.  Here we could show that the concern was nationwide, as it should be.  The concern is even more urgent so close to the Chesapeake Bay.  Science should not be a partisan thing; neither should be a concern for mother earth, or as I have called it in a previous post: our Blue Marble.  What concerns me is all this talk about future generations when we talk about saddling future generations up with economic debt, but very few want to address the fact that we are saddling future generations up with environmental debt. 

As I mentioned in previous posts these discussions are not new.  Malthus (1798) predicted that we would have to deal with over population and the resulting man-caused disasters (see my previous post about that <here>).  Others claimed it is our world and we can do with it what we want.  Western man’s dominion of nature is as old the bible itself.  But it was Francis Bacon (1561-1626) who articulated this when he claimed that we needed to use science and technology to reclaim our “dominion over creation”; something we had lost when Adam and Eve were "kicked" out of the Garden of Eden.  As I wrote in a May 11, 2016 blog post, John Locke took this a few steps further, and asserts that nature itself has no intrinsic value, but that nature only gains value when we work it.  

This is completely contrary to some of the work I did some 20 years ago which was called "natural resources damage assessment" or NRDA.  One of the questions asked in NRDA is about what the enjoyment of nature is worth to you (the public) personally.  It was particular important in cases like oil spills.  The question became how much enjoyment did that take away from you, because you could not spend time on that beach, or fish?  This goes into the equation to calculate the amount of fines that are being assessed to companies that damage the environment like BP when the had the spill in the Gulf.  If we would follow John Locke's logic the ocean may not be worth anything, or for that matter neither would the Chesapeake Bay.  Or maybe since we are mining it we have dominion over it and we can pollute it to our heart's content.

I think this strange logic is still out there, 500 years later.  Or is it 2000 years later?  Some people still think we can do to the earth what ever we want.  They think we own it.  There is still this thought that any problem can eventually be solved by science, a somewhat Baconeque point of view.  

Instead of seeing nature as a subordinate or worthless, we should have a sense of awe and wonder over nature, and a belief that we humans are part of it.  This is why we were marching this past Saturday, not only to solve these issues by science but to understand the issues (and maybe help with a solution).  By understanding them we maybe able to avoid worsening some of them or avoid starting new ones.  

On a final note, what encouraged my wife and I the most was that during our walk, some of the walkers were actually picking up garbage and eventually deposited the garbage in a dumpster that the found on our route.  They were actually cleaning up the environment as we walked, leaving the world a better place.

Speeches before the start of the march in Norfolk, just an interesting juxtaposition showing that science is apolitical

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