Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Post-Election Apathy

For those of us who have an intense interest in science, and believe an understanding of science to be essential to the future of our nation and the world, the results of yesterday’s elections were discouraging but not unexpected. The elections provided an overwhelming victory to the political party nearly every member of which denies both evolution and global warming. It is clear that there is no hope whatever that America will even go along with, much less lead, the world in science education or in preparing for or reducing the greenhouse effect.

Of course, it would seem that local governments and businesses would understand that we have to prepare for the future rather than denying it. At some point, the economy will have to shift to sustainability. Many corporations are already doing this by investing, for example, in energy efficiency. Many states (not including Oklahoma) and municipalities are already doing what Washington D.C. refuses to do. But the federal government is now in a strong position to push the scales toward greater reliance on coal and oil, regardless of whether alternative energy sources may be a better investment. The federal government will do what is most profitable for coal and oil corporations, not what is most profitable for the economy as a whole. And when the federal government sits its fat butt on the economic scales, it really doesn’t matter what is best for the market. And that fat butt will firmly weigh in on the side of coal and oil and against energy efficiency targets.

Republican victors overwhelmingly talked about ending partisan gridlock and “reaching across the aisle.” But when have they ever done this? You can be sure that there will be utterly no bipartisan work in either house of Congress. Throughout the Obama Administration, Republicans have blocked everything that the Democrats have proposed, even sending the country into budget default for a few hours. Now that the Republicans rule Congress, can we expect anything different? So do not expect Washington to do anything in the next two years. The Obama Administration might accomplish a few things by mandate, as it has been doing, but these will have no long-term significance.

Therefore my entire attention will be focused on trying to do the best job I can do in the roles in which I am a leader. I am absolutely sure that some of my students and readers are better prepared to create a sustainable future. In two days, the Oklahoma Academy of Sciences will meet. This is a group of people—and not a tiny one—who are passionately dedicated to making science work in the public interest. Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education will continue its work at the state level, even if against impossible odds.

In a way, those of us who understand and love science must continue working the same way the first-century Christians worked. They told others about what they thought was the Gospel (even though this Gospel evolved over time), they continued to meet (even when in secret), and they did so even though they knew they would have no immediate impact on a government run by clinically crazy Caesars in Rome.

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