September 22, 2009

In support of clearly bad things

Michael P. Nelson and John A. Vucetich advocate political advocacy by scientists in Conservation Biology. They also take the opportunity to engage in some political advocacy themselves.
Quite apart from whether neutrality is an appropriate position, refraining from advocacy is unlikely to represent a neutral position. Rather, such a refrain is typically implicit, but powerful, support for the policy backed by those with the most political power. [...] For example, biodiversity loss, climate change, human population growth, and pollution on the whole are so favored by the dominant culture, institutions, and policies that abstaining from advocacy against such processes is a de facto support for these processes. Just as being neutral toward child abuse guarantees children will be abused, neutrality about environmental abuse guarantees environmental abuse. Arguably, many current policy issues are like this. They are clearly bad, and scientists are responsible for knowing that they are clearly bad, but they delude themselves into believing that they can remain neutral about them.
I don't advocate against human population growth because I see nothing wrong with it. I don't advocate against climate change for the same reason I don't advocate against the weather. I don't advocate against pollution or biodiversity loss (or anthropogenic climate change) for the same reason I don't advocate against work, chemotherapy or paying off your mortgage.

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