August 2018 Newsletter


A moment for science. And reason. So much of our modern world is built on our capacity for and commitment to reason. 

So how should we react when FACTS are attacked, when UNIVERSITIES are disparaged, when the PRESS is called the enemy, and when SCIENCE itself seems under siege? (Or, as Politico put it recently, when “Climate change skeptics run the Trump administration”?)

At the national level, a joint attack on reason/facts and on the press is ominous. TheNew York Times summarized this recently:

  • Trump is the first president since 1941 not to name a science adviser, a position created during World War II to guide the Oval Office on technical matters ranging from nuclear warfare to global pandemics.

  • No chief scientist serves at the State Department or at the Department of Agriculture

  • Both the Interior Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have disbanded climate science advisory committees.

  • The Food and Drug Administration disbanded its Food Advisory Committee, which provided guidance on food safety.

  • EPA is a world in itself, with radical limits on what types of scientific research can be used and what scientists can serve on committees.

  • And President Trump himself outrageously declared the press “the enemy of the people” (a phrase famously used by Stalin and Mao), and fuels mob responses at his rallies and through his tweets.

I would encourage two things:

First, support scientists, researchers, and journalists whenever you can. Being pilloried can wear people down, and letting those under siege know that we stand with them is important. Join local groups and write letters and speak up, in their support. Our country and community and planet depend on them (and us).

Second, locally, let’s keep our commitment to reason, using data and transparency to help address our challenges. Governments belong to the people, and so should embody our commitment to facts and science in what we do locally, welcoming research, study, dialogue, and experimentation. It’s not always easy or clear, but it’s important we embrace these values regularly in our work.

We know we need empathy along with reason, to make things work. And we need to remember that sometimes opponents seek to foment divisions and aggravate differences, discouraging us from emphasizing our common purpose to work together on the big challenges we face.

Keep working together, bringing ideas and suggestions and reactions and reforms, based in reason and steeped in empathy.

Democratically Yours,

PS: Remember to hold Sunday afternoon, 4pm-7pm, September 9th for the fourth annual Hamilton Family Picnic at Bryan Park, with local, state and federal candidates, music and food for political momentum building for the critical mid-term elections coming up. And remember to help get everyone registered to vote for this November!!

PPS: I can’t help quoting a powerful paragraph from an extraordinary article about climate change in The New York Times on Aug 5th; read it and ponder:

"The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.

Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?"