Science At the Wheel: Driving into the Future of the Environmental Movement
Science has been able to approximate that the human race has existed for only 400,000 years on this 4.56 billion year old planet. Yet in its brief history humanity has had a far greater impact than any other species. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, the rate and complexity of this impact has only increased. With such profound influence on our environment must come greater responsibility. Scientists, as the leading explorers in this new age of technology, share an important part of this responsibility. Their innovations have shaped the world to be what it is today, and it is their research that will be the foundation for tomorrow. Science provides the vehicle that will drive society into the future. Science explores, observes, and explains the world around us. It both finds and attempts to solve problems with the ultimate goal of benefiting society. The health of the environment is increasingly associated with the well-being of society. Therefore, the problems of industrial and agricultural pollution have to be a priority for the scientist. Science has played a major role in creating this modern problem and therefore must now take the lead in solving it.
Having identified the pollution problem initially, scientists more fully understand the extent and severity of this problem. The correlation between cancer and pesticides was identified and continues to be studied by biologists and physicians. It is chemists who have been called to classify the 20,000 Superfund sites and to report on toxic chemicals seeping into homes, schools, and drinking water. Scientists, in general, have studied and stressed the importance of ecosystem diversity. Pollution is affecting this diversity as well as human health, the economy, social justice, and national security.1 As scientists hold the key to this wealth of information, we need to act upon it in an ethical manner, communicate it to the public so that they can do the same, and search for practical solutions.
Scientists can respond to the challenges of preserving and restoring the environment like no other group can. Scientists have the knowledge to interpret the facts. It is this convincing hard data that other environmental advocates lack. Grassroots groups are a good example. Some community-organized groups, like the one led by Lois Gibbs in Love Canal, have been successful in making the government and industry respond to their specific needs.2 The most successful groups have been the ones that gathered the scientific reports and raised money for more research. With thousands of small groups seeking attention across the country, it is those which have evidence to support their arguments that are winning the attention of politicians and forcing industry to take action. Science can lend credibility to their struggles and the environmental movement as a whole. Without scientific support grassroots groups run the...