ARE BARACK OBAMA'S NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS ABOUT ECOLOGY?
December 28, 2008
changing of the year come the obligatory New Year's resolutions. I have
some of my own, but fulfilling them will not affect anyone outside my
own circle of friends and family. On the other hand, consider some statements
related to ecological research and the environment that Barack Obama made
during his campaign for president. If they are among his New Year's resolutions,
their fulfillment will be beneficial for the whole country.
about the condition of the nation's funding for basic research, Obama
said the "situation is unacceptable." He further stated, "As
president, I will increase funding for basic research in physical and
life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double
basic research budgets over the next decade." And his rationale for
taking such a position? "We are clearly underinvesting in research
across the spectrum of scientific and engineering disciplines." Ecology,
being one of the major fields in the life sciences, will certainly benefit
from this change in attitude. Recognizing the critical importance of funding
basic scientific research is the first step in making the adjustments
that will help America in the global competition for scientific supremacy.
Despite the paranoia that is all too common these days, the scientific
community is not something to fear. Having the best scientists in the
world will help ensure that we have the strongest country in the world.
If the incoming
administration resolves to embrace a scientific renaissance, we will be
able to return to a national plan for making sound environmental decisions
about pollution, overdevelopment, and global climate change based on scientific
findings of ecologists. A healthy environmental situation will strengthen
the United States' global presence and its influence on the world scene.
that he would "reduce carbon emission by the amount scientists say
is necessary" is also a worthwhile resolution. Congress should make
that resolution as well. The statement has two important points. First,
Obama's acknowledgement that scientists are the best people to study scientific
issues and interpret the results of such studies is a refreshing attitude.
the U.S. contribution to atmospheric carbon is an admirable goal. Pretty
much every independent scientist in the world with knowledge of climate
change and meteorology will tell you that carbon in the atmosphere has
no long-range value for people--either in this country or the world. Incidentally,
the scientific recommendation is ultimately to reduce our carbon output
to only 20% of what it was in 1990! Of course people who rake in piles
of money from carbon production (such as coal and oil) will disagree with
this resolution, but what else would you expect?
A final resolution
that can have nothing but positive results for our country is Obama's
declaration that he will "make math and science education a national
priority." His plan would be to ensure that all children "have
access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels." Encouraging
young people to believe that achieving scientific knowledge is a worthy
goal and then giving them the academic tools to accomplish that goal will
certainly benefit our society. I hope this resolution will translate into
promoting programs from grammar school through college that permit students
who are capable of achieving excellence in science and math to do so.
I further hope that programs about ecology and the environment will be
in the forefront of such studies. Carrying out the first resolution above--to
fund basic scientific research--will do more than simply increase funding.
It will demonstrate to students the United States' commitment to scientific
endeavors, which will in turn encourage them to participate in programs
with strong math and science curricula.
Obama in his role as president of the United States is able to fulfill
these resolutions, our country will be on the move again scientifically,
technologically, and environmentally. Our wildlife, natural habitats,
and overall environmental health will benefit from the ripple effects
of a return to scientific excellence. And, yes, the economy, which is
on everyone's mind, will be boosted by programs that put people to work
doing what is best for the environment.
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