Boston rallies to support its science and scientists

Scientist and supporters gathered together in Copley Square on Feb. 19  to protest the censorship of science, defunding of research, and denial of face by the Trump Administration. The rally was organized by and the Natural History Museum to coincide with annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which brought thousands of scientists from around to country to Boston that weekend. The event was meant to organize the science community in support of political action before the National March for Science on April 22, 2017 in Washington D.C. with the support of sister marches in cities around the country, including Boston.

Watch the video I made about the event here.

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Visualizing climate change opinions

For the first time in two years, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication updated it Climate Opinion Map. Following the rhetoric of the past election and the subsequent censorship and deregulation it is an interesting look at the state of national opinion. The interactive map is a goldmine of data, based on the answers of people fro every state, county, congressional district in the country to 17 survey questions encompassing beliefs, risk perceptions, policy support, and personal behaviors.

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The graphic allows the user to look at a map either by absolute value, as displayed above, or by deviation from the national average confidence in climate change, displayed below. (A comparison of these two maps is an interesting lesson in how data visualizations based off the same data can tell different stories.)

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Right now the map is divided by counties, but change the metrics on the left and you can divide by congressional districts, hone in on metro areas, or look at the state wide portrait. You can also look at any of these factors for just one state at a time. Here is a look at just Massachusetts:

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But the best thing this visualization has to offer is that it allows you to view the country in terms of each of the 17 survey questions. Sure, 70 percent of people in the United States believe that global warming is happening, but how many people think that global warming is already causing harm? Turns out only about 53 percent.

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I could go on explaining all the cool things this graphic can do, but the best thing to do is just go around with it, you can see some pretty incredible things, both surprising and unsurprising. And best of all, it brings you outside your news bubble!

“For the first time, it’s given us a chance for us to see the incredible diversity within the country,” Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, told Scientific American. “It’s like a biologist being given a microscope for the first time.”

Bill and Bernie talk climate change

Popular champions of science for the masses Senator Bernie Sanders and scientists Bill Nye sat down this morning to talk about the importance of addressing climate change in the United States despite and because the current administration’s denial that it exists.


The interview is not subtle and the pair jumps quickly between topics following Sanders questions. Neither do they dive too deeply into any one topic. But the interview does serve as a crash course on the sheer magnitude of the effects of global climate change from environmental to economic to human interest.

Over the course of half an hour, the pair touched on the practicalities of creating new jobs in America through the implementation of clean energy, how climate change skeptics spread uncertainty in the face of settled scientific facts, and tips for home owners who want to conserve more energy.

For any number of reasons, it is easy to see a grim future from where we are now, and Bill and Bernie certainty touch upon that. They discussed economic and ecological costs of increasingly frequent storms: severe but manageable in the developed world, much worse in less-developed countries.

But they also talked about how to Nye left that audience with some tidbits of optimism.

“I think if we can get these people to look at the world a little differently they will be on the side of domestic reproduced renewable electricity in a very quick short order,” Nye said.

Just a quick recap

Now that President Trump has been in office for one month, I would like to quickly recap the major important environmental deregulatory measures that have been taken so far. Environmental protection role backs began on Jan. 20 with the regulatory free, directing the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy from publishing new or pending regulations.

Since then, Trump issued a presidential memoranda to expedite the approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines (DAPL) – both of which were blocked under Barack Obama’s administration – and on Feb. 8, the Army Corps of Engineers granted an easement for the construction of DAPL.

A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in order to “to eliminate certain programs of the EPA, and for other purposes.” If approved, the bill would strip federal funding from all initiatives to regulate greenhouse gas emissions or to fund programs with climate regulation goals. This bill came just days after a different bill was introduced to eliminate the EPA all together.

The EPA is not the only federal agency fielding the brunt of this Administration’s lack of climate conscience. The House, using the Congressional Review Act, has moved to repeal the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s methane waste prevention rule as well as Planning 2.0 rule, which improves the environmental review process prior any land use change.

So far, the trend follows Trump’s frequent campaign promises of widespread environment deregulation as well as his recent mantra that “if there’s a new regulation, they have to knock out two.”

Becoming a sushi chef

There is an art learning how to operate chopsticks and properly eat sushi. Even more nuanced is learning to make sushi, but Sea To You Sushi in Newton, Mass. offers classes to teach even novice chefs how to roll their own sushi rolls. I checked out a class this weekend to see what it was all about.

Scientists get political

Science shouldn’t be a political issue. For a long time scientists tended to stay in the lab or out in the field rather than go into politics where the line between facts and lies has become increasingly blurry.

But there is something of a political awakening among scientists going on at the moment. Rather than argue about politics in the face of the current reality, scientists are enacting a new tactic. They are planning to fight back.

“The idea that [scientists] should be above the fray has been slowly unraveling as researchers realize that their own aloofness may largely be to blame for public disregard for the evidence on issues like climate change or vaccine safety,” Amy Harmon and Henry Fountain wrote in a piece for the New York Times.  “In the era of Trump, some say it could finally come completely apart.”

It started with plans to follow in the footsteps of the nation’s women and march on Washington in the name of science. Facebook pages for sister marches around the country soon popped up after. The data is set for April 22, 2017, Earth Day.

But other scientists have set their sights higher than that, realizing the only way to control the future of science research in America is to have a seat at the table. Paleo-ecologist Jacquelyn Gill from Maine and Berkeley biologist Michael Eisen from California both intend to run for Congress in 2018. For those who wish to follow in their footsteps, the organization 314 Action is hosting training sessions aimed at scientists and engineers thinking about getting into politics.

“I’m not sure I’m the best vehicle for this,” Dr. Eisen, told the New York Times.“But if we want to defend the role of science in policy making, scientists need to run for office.”

After all, if Trump can get into politics with no political experience anyone can! (That’s the American DreamTM right?)

The change won’t happen all at once, of course.

“Right now it’s mostly talking about what to do,” Jonathan Overpeck, director of the Institute for the Environment at the University of Arizona, told the Times. “We’re scientists — we tend to plan very carefully what we do and then we try to do it well. But certainly there’s an elevated sense that this is very real.”