Home » Posts tagged 'science'
Tag Archives: science
Buried under all the Kavanaugh sexual assault hearings and coverage, there was this side note in yesterday’s NYT about the EPA shutting down the office of the science advisor. This senior post is basically the science ombudsman for the agency to assure that the latest science is applied to the agency’s policies, decisions and regulations. This is a sad day for American democracy and the environment.
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to dissolve its Office of the Science Advisor, a senior post that was created to counsel the E.P.A. administrator on the scientific research underpinning health and environmental regulations, according to a person familiar with the agency’s plans. The person spoke anonymously because the decision had not yet been made public.The science adviser works across the agency to ensure that the highest quality science is integrated into the agency’s policies and decisions, according to the E.P.A.’s website. The move is the latest among several steps taken by the Trump administration that appear to have diminished the role of scientific research in policymaking while the administration pursues an agenda of rolling back regulations.
And so it begins. The Trump administration is targeting government agencies which produce “politicized science” — or as most of us call it, “science”! — and will be looking to defund those agencies. This story from the Guardian focuses on NASA, but no doubt EPA, NOAA, and other agencies which work on climate change and other areas of scientific research that the Republican party thinks of as “politicized science” will be targeted for budget cuts and more. It’ll be interesting to analyze the 2016 End of Term .gov crawl to see just how many .gov sites fundamentally change or completely disappear in the coming months.
Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said.
Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century.
This would mean the elimination of Nasa’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. Nasa’s network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change, with the Earth science division’s budget set to grow to $2bn next year. By comparison, space exploration has been scaled back somewhat, with a proposed budget of $2.8bn in 2017.
I just ran across this Scientific American‘s Primate Diaries blog post, “Fire Over Ahwahnee: John Muir and the Decline of Yosemite” by Eric Michael Johnson. Anyone who’s read Charles Mann’s 1491 (great read btw!) knows that the indigenous peoples of the Americas from the forests of New England to the Amazon, rather than living in pristine wilderness, profoundly shaped their environments through techniques like cultivation and controlled burning. But Muir, often seen as the father of environmental conservation, actually did much harm to the Yosemite valley that he loved so much. Johnson writes eloquently about and makes connections between Muir, the lost history of violence and ignorant racism against native peoples and the issue of fire in Yosemite, and links to several scientific journal articles about fire as well as a fascinating USGS report “Status of the Sierra Nevada: The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project”.
It’s not that Muir didn’t encounter native peoples in his travels. He did, but he found them to be “most ugly, and some of them altogether hideous.” For a wilderness as pure as his holy Yosemite “they seemed to have no right place in the landscape, and I was glad to see them fading out of sight down the pass.” But, ironically, these “strange creatures” as Muir described them were the ones responsible for many of the features that gave Yosemite Valley its park-like appearance, the “landscape gardens” that Muir so valued. It is this forgotten legacy that has undermined many of the successes in the U.S. and even the global conservation movement today, one that traces directly back to John Savage and John Muir and the first protected wilderness site that later became the model followed around the world.
It wasn’t only Muir who was struck by the ordered beauty of Yosemite Valley. Lafayette Bunnell, the New York physician who accompanied Savage on his exploits in 1851, recalled that “the valley at the time of discovery presented the appearance of a well kept park.” Likewise, Galen Clark who was the state guardian of the Yosemite Grant after it was ceded to California, remembered similar conditions when he first visited in 1855. “At the time,” Clark wrote, “there was no undergrowth of young trees to obstruct clear open views in any part of the valley from one side of the Merced River across to the base of the opposite wall.”
However, these conditions didn’t stay that way for long. Forty years later Clark found that Yosemite’s open meadowland had all but disappeared, estimating that it had been “at least four times as large as at the present time.” The reason for this, known in the nineteenth century but little appreciated until recently, were the many ways that Yosemite’s first inhabitants had transformed their environment over hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Chief among these was the strategic use of fire.
[HT to Kottke blog (a favorite of mine!) which alerted me to Johnson’s Scientific American post!]
The National Science Foundation (NSF) website news.science360.gov gathers news “from wherever science is happening.” This includes government sources that you might expect (National Science Foundation science and engineering centers, government agencies that fund scientific research) but also includes non-government sources such as individual scientists, college and university press offices, popular and peer-reviewed journals, dozens of not-for-profit organizations and private industry.
Congress Nixes Climate Service, By Curtis Brainard, Columbia Journalism Review (Nov 21, 2011).
NOAA’s budget request for fiscal year 2012 (which began October 1) included a proposal to reorganize its existing climate capabilities and services into “a single point of entry” for users called the Climate Service. The stated goal was to “more efficiently and effectively respond to the rapidly increasing demand for easily accessible and timely scientific data and information about climate that helps people make informed decisions in their lives, businesses, and communities.”
Despite the fact that the proposal did not call for any additional funding to establish the new office, Republican lawmakers opposed it every step of the way, according to the Post’s Brian Vastag, who was seemingly the only reporter to spot Congress’s decision to scuttle the Climate Service during budget negotiations last week.