13 Feb 2014

Just the one planet

by Russ.
It seems like a really obvious set of points to make: We have just the one planet. We cannot survive without breathable air, drinkable water, and food. In the event of our entirely messing up the one planet we have, there is nowhere else for us to go. We’ve not identified any planets we could ship out to, science-fiction-movie-style. Moreover we do not have the technology to ship everyone out.

We seem to have a collective belief that science will magically solve our problems, one way or another. It is more like a superstition than a rationally held position. Not because science can’t be expected to deliver, but because of how we treat science and scientists in the first place.

Scientists tell us climate change is real and that adding to greenhouse gases is going to trash our environment. What do we do? Hardly anything. Scientists tell us the seas are choked with plastic and that we are overfishing. We do.... almost nothing.

We let polluting companies pay for studies to ‘demonstrate’ that what they do is fine, and we accept these studies as contributions to the debate, rather than dodgy propaganda.

We don’t fund innovation. We could have clean energy for everyone, if there was any political will at all to back up the science. We could no doubt have clean water for everyone and have solved world hunger if we invested some money and political will into the relevant sciences.
Scientists tell us that badger culls won’t work, that dredging rivers will make flooding worse, and that nuclear waste is difficult and dangerous for the long term. Our politicians ignore this and carry on with the political agenda.

Other, social and mathematical evidence shows us that the more laid back teaching policies of Scandinavian schools get better results than we do. Are we going to emulate that? No, we’re going to emulate Maoist China instead. All of the figures link cuts in benefits to rising use of foodbanks. Does the government take responsibility? No, it blames the poor, not because there is evidence, but because there is inclination.

In theory, science, technology and innovation can save us, our planet and every other species on it and make a better future. However, if you think this can be achieved by ignoring what science comes up with, cutting its funding and holding no respect for either evidence or logic, you are more superstitious and irrational than your average Mediaeval peasant. They at least had the excuse that no one then knew any better. Our government cannot claim the same.

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