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Science is our future, not our enemy

Our nation prides itself on academic excellence and scientific ingenuity that provide society with the benefits of new and exciting discoveries and technological advances. In fact, science and technology have been responsible for half of all U.S. economic growth since World War II.

And yet, the current administration is attacking science at every turn. They call climate change a hoax and are working to repeal sound regulations based on the best available science. In so doing, they jeopardize our food, water, health and environment.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology is led by Congress’ leading climate change denier and counts many other science deniers among its members. Despite rejecting and attempting to suppress science time and again, this committee oversees all federal energy research and our national laboratories. The current Congress and their potential cuts to research threaten our nation’s scientific excellence and leadership throughout the world.

In Southern Oregon, clean technology and renewable energy are the future of jobs and prosperity. For numerous reasons, our future cannot include a return to the boom and bust associated with natural resource extraction. Congressional leaders seem intent on sending our nation back to a time of dirty air, dangerous jobs, denuded landscapes, and polluted waters. We must not go backwards.

A group of scientists, professors and doctors here in Southern Oregon want to discuss with Rep. Greg Walden the need for the U.S. to continue to lead on science and the need for Southern Oregon to lead on clean technology and renewable energy. We requested a meeting with our representative during this congressional recess, but were denied.

We are requesting that Representative Walden support continued federal funding for scientific research and development, as well as policies and regulations based on the best available science, including the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Paris Climate Accord that is based on scientific consensus among thousands of international scientists. At the state level, we support science and clean technology through the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. This bill needs the support of State Sen. Alan DeBoer, along with Reps. Pam Marsh, Sal Esquivel, Mike McLane and other Oregon legislators.

Science is not elitist. Nor is it partisan. Science is for anyone with curiosity about how our world works. If you use a cellphone, drive a car or follow a doctor’s prescription when you are sick, you welcome science into your life.

That same science tells us that we need to quickly switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, that we need healthy forests to provide us with water and to slow climate change, and that we can create new cures and treatments for diseases that have long plagued humanity. Science is the answer, not the problem.

Like all rational Americans, we expect our representatives in D.C. to reject alternative facts and conspiracy hoaxes. We ask that they accept the reality that science reveals about our world and our health. Failure to do so will cost us dearly, causing illness, suffering and even loss of life.

Scientists are regular people with kids and hobbies and businesses, just like everyone else. We help to discover new information so that everyone can use it in our everyday lives. We are writing this editorial because we care about the future of our nation and our region, and strongly believe that that a successful future will depend on our embracing facts, data and reality over partisan hype and, too often, outright lies.

On April 22, there will be a March for Science in cities around the nation, including Medford. And on April 29, the People’s Climate March will be held in Medford and cities around the world. Scientists are rarely activists, but the current political climate and attacks on science, plus the seriousness of the consequences, have compelled us to take more activist roles. Please join us to support continued American leadership in science and sound policies that protect people and the environment.

Finally, we would appreciate a meeting with our representative in Congress, who has voted for many of the recent rollbacks of regulations that were carefully crafted based on best available science. Rep. Greg Walden’s rejection of our request for a meeting on science has us wondering, “Where’s Walden?”

— Marni Koopman, Ph.D., is a climate change scientist. Bryan Sohl, M.D., is a physician. This opinion was also signed by Alan Binette, M.D.; Dominick DellaSala, Ph.D., chief scientist at the Geos Institute; Eric Dittmer, professor emeritus in the Department of Environmental Studies at Southern Oregon University; Linda Harris, M.D.; Elizabeth Hirni, D.O. and hospitalist; Gregory Jones, Ph.D., professor of environmental science and policy at SOU;  Alan Journet, Ph.D., professor emeritus, departments of biology and environmental science, Southern Mississippi State University; Daniel A. Kahn, M.D., Ph.D.; Jack Lentfer, Ph.D., former scientific advisor and commissioner of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission and member of the Alaska Board of Game; Richard May, Ph.D., professor of human anatomy and physiology; Michael Parker, Ph.D., professor and chair of biology; and Mike Stadnisky, Ph.D., CEO, Life Sciences Informatics Company.