Save a Tree, Hug a Scientist
Last week was a big one in the United States of America! And no, it wasn’t the potential release of Brendan Dassey that had the whole country talking. The US selected a new president for the next four years. Now whether you greeted the election happily, angrily, or I-want-to-punch-someone-cry-for-two-days-and-explode-ly, many environmental engineers and scientists felt a little bit like this…
It’s no surprise that the President-Elect is not the most fond of environmental research. He is not only planning to put an outspoken climate change denier in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he also stated that he believes the National Institutes of Health to be ‘terrible,’ and only one of the following tweets he deemed later to be a ‘joke.’
So you can guess researchers in the good ol’ US of A, the country who currently spends the most on scientific research and development, felt and continue to feel a little uneasy.
The thing about environmental science is that it isn’t a particularly flashy and immediately profitable science. There are many instances where after a study is done, the environmental scientist concludes that without more data no true result can come of the study. That’s why organizations like the EPA were founded — to protect the public from hurting itself.
Let’s look at DDT, for instance. DDT is a pesticide that was developed in the 1940s. It was a miracle potion when it was created because everywhere it was used, crops, homes, institutions, etc, not a bug was in sight! But DDT doesn’t like to go away quietly and will accumulate in fatty tissues and soil leading to cancer in both animals and humans. After the EPA banned DDT in 1972, they funded and continue to fund research for clean-up projects in the US. See, not particularly sexy, but super necessary. And we have tons of these types of chemicals out there that need research to understand. (Sidenote: before you think that the EPA goes around willy-nilly and bans chemicals just to make life harder, the restrictions on the EPA are so stringent that they have only banned or restricted 5 substances of the 85,000 industrial chemicals out there today.)
Likewise, no matter your opinion on what we should do about climate change (It is definitely happening. That’s a fact.) or environmental science research in general, it’s super important for not just the animals and plants, but humans too. With sea level rise, more intense storms, the 'safe until proven dangerous' approach to chemicals, antibiotic resistance, Zika, clean up from legacy contaminants, and much more, we straight up need environmental researchers. It’s not very likely that anyone but these dorks would want to go to school for 9 years to learn about this mess to work for the rest of their lives in the field. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the rest of the countries around the world are making discoveries in environmental science and engineering and we potentially may be left in the dust and it may cost us monetarily.
So, if you don’t want environmental research jobs going to other countries, call your local congressperson and tell them to support scientific research, or donate to the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club Foundation, National Resource Defense Council.
Remember to give a high five to an environmental researcher next time you see them. They might not risk their lives for you in combat or fight for you in the courtroom, but they are looking out for your health one stinky water sample at a time.
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