BRUCE THOM. Agonies of an American scientist under Trump.

Jan 10, 2017

A truly great nation must be compassionate, loving, kind, rational and celebrate diversity. 

Years ago I had the privilege of undertaking my PhD studies at the Coastal Studies Institute of Louisiana State University. It was at a time when US federal agencies actively sponsored environmental research within and outside the USA. On returning to Australia in 1971 to a position at ANU, the Institute sent one of their bright young coastal scientists to work with me on the Ord River. Don Wright is his name and later in the 70s we encouraged him to spent a period at Sydney University researching coastal processes and environmental change. He later returned to the US to senior position at the College of William and Mary and established himself as one of the preeminent coastal and ocean scientists in the US. He has long been associated with science policy issues and in recent years has been a leader in science education from his base in Florida.

Following the election of Donald Trump as President-elect, he sent me articles he has published in a local Florida paper, Citrus County Chronicle. See below ‘Wealth and greatness are not synonymous’ published on 13 December. While this is not the New York Times, it has a circulation amongst citizens of a part of the US that supported Trump as their President. As a concerned scientist fearful of what lies ahead, he is championing peaceful protests by individuals and organisations; in his words there is a need for protests and rallies similar to those in the 60s to defend liberal values  involving prominent national leaders. “Passive acceptance of this frightening reality as the new world order should not be an option for thinking and caring people”. And to reflect this view he participated in a large and peaceful pro-science/anti-Trump rally at the recent American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.

The context for these sentiments is the fear by many in the US that the Trump administration will be not just anti-science, but will promote policies and actions that will further damage fragile global negotiations seeking to constrain greenhouse gas emissions and hence the adverse impacts of climate change. Already steps have been taken to secure data to sites that are not dependent on federal agency support. Of course, we do not know if such fears will be realised, but the fact that many scientists perceive the worse is cause for concern. Scientists such as Don Wright with their experience of science administration, education and funding will do their best to alert the broader public to the potential consequences of actions that will reduce the levels of excellence in research in fields such as environmental change that we have come to expect from US federal agencies, research institutions and universities.

Emeritus Professor Bruce Thom AM,FTSE, Member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists

Don Wright.  Wealth and greatness are not synonymous
(Published December 13, 2016 in Citrus County Chronicle)

America is great! It has become increasingly great since the end of the Civil War. The regime that the President Elect currently seeks is not about greatness but its antithesis. It is about hate, disdain for diversity, disdain for the environment, promotion of extreme wealth for the few and the ostentatious display of wealth by “winners”. It is about the 1950s, a time of ignorance, white supremacy and a lack of environmental awareness of such things as global change. We have moved beyond, and must remain beyond, those times. Wealth and its display are not synonymous with greatness. A truly great nation must be compassionate, loving, kind, rational and celebrate diversity. Our President Elect appears to be opposed to all of that and his recent cabinet nominations confirm our worst fears. I am deeply alarmed by the mostly-white line up of billionaires, hardline generals, climate change deniers, union bashers and Wall Street CEOs for cabinet and administrative posts. Ignorance, greed and hate seem poised to prevail. We must not give in to this but must make sure that our voices are heard until such time as we can return to civility and reason. Maybe that is four years away but caring and thinking people must persist.

The forthcoming inaugural celebration will be a first. The GOP, Wall Street and the Alt Right will be able to combine a celebration for the birth of a White American Plutocracy with a token funeral for the notion of American greatness. I expect a “yuuuge” and gala event on the National Mall on January 20, 2017. Notably, protesters have been banned.

Don Wright, Inglis, FL

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