Somewhere in the wilds of Utah, there’s a scientist making thermal infrared images of rivers, and turning them into exhibits for a museum. Your tax dollars are involved, of course, but trust that somebody’s awareness is being raised.
Some of her colleagues at a science thing called iUTAH have more empirical pursuits. They recently did a water use survey and discovered that large majorities of Utah residents care about preventing brown spots on their lawns.
That’s an official scientific fact, and there’s more where that came from.
So why did President Trump go and fire Science this week?
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Board of Scientific Counselors has been decimated. Will we ever learn what lawncare is like in Idaho? Or Montana?
Yet the EPA must stumble forward, with nobody to advise it on lawns, or “the integration of social dynamics in multi-scalar assessments of environmental problems,” which is almost certainly something it ought to do.
“This is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda,” Ken Kimmell, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, was quoted saying in all the stories. “What seems to be premature removals of members of this Board of Science Counselors when the board has come out in favor of the EPA strengthening its climate science, plus the severe cuts to research and development — you have to see all these things as interconnected.”
Yes, of course. We all know that Republicans love their polluting cronies almost as much as they hate facts. That’s obviously why EPA administrator Scott Pruitt decided to replace half the board (according to the Post), or maybe just five of the 18 members (sayeth the Times), instead of inviting them back for a second term.
We were so close. Under President Obama, the EPA located and appointed a professor who promised “place-based insights, woven with theories and observations from social and biophysical science,” about water in Utah, which provide what we’ve all been longing for — yes, “a transdisciplinary basis for collective understanding and taking action to mitigate risks and threats and enhance value in lived experiences.”
Now, your experiences, lived and otherwise, shall remain unenhanced, naked to the unmitigated threat of your solitary mind, whose unwoven thoughts have no basis in transdisciplinary place-based… help, somebody! I can’t get this sentence to stop!
Two or three times a year, this professor would fly to Washington D.C. to talk with 17 other professors about, well, bark beetles and underground storage tanks, naturally enough.
Now, thanks to Pruitt, this panel will still be talking about that stuff, but there might be some people who work for energy companies and such joining the conversation.
EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said that panels such as this “play a critical role reviewing the agency’s work. EPA received hundreds of nominations to serve on the board, and we want to ensure fair consideration of all the nominees…”
Here’s hoping they pick a few skeptics, some folks with the opposite disposition of the trope-mongering journalists so sure there’s a war on science that they rarely bother with the details. Their credentials are almost incidental.
The journalists imagine a panel of generic scientists doing generic science in the public interest, when the reality is, as Locke observed, that “all things are only particulars.”
After all, what do water surveys, legume crops, and transdisciplinary whatnots have to do with underground storage tanks or any other issue the board tackles? None.
Pruitt surely knows that the problem with the EPA is that it endorses too much junk science in furtherance of its regulatory reach. Or, since that’s far too general a claim to prove, I should say that my limited experience with the EPA certainly matches the absurdity on display in the Waters of the United States rule, which turned every puddle in the country into a supposed waterway.
The truth of any particular claim that the EPA makes is found, if at all, at the bottom of a long rabbit hole. In a perfect world, reporters would dig into the science behind the regulatory apparatus, but the reality is that technical analysis of that sort makes for dull reading.
I’ve gone down that rabbit hole a couple times, with the federal EPA and with its state counterparts, and found utterly phony science.
There was the EPA’s UMACT rule on mercury emissions, which has cost tens of billions, and had no discernible effect. The science underlying the rule is faulty, based on a wildly incorrect assumption about the characteristics of pilot whale meat, which retains a lot of mercury and PCBs. Basically, the rule is designed to protect a hypothetical subsistence fisherwoman in Florida eating a steady diet of toxic pilot whale meat, even though no such person exists, and pilot whales live near the Arctic Circle.
The Ohio EPA once went along with a phony water quality study to facilitate a shady land deal involving the mayor of a small town. The owner of a failed golf club got millions in tax dollars, all for the ostensible purpose of cleaning an already pristine creek just before it reached a wastewater treatment facility.
Where’s a transdisciplinary water expert when you need one?
Seriously, though, these boards have a reputation for being rubber stamps. Let’s hope Pruitt appoints some folks more interested in checking the EPA’s work than cheering it on.