Science in the Streets
Photo: Joe Brusky/Flickr

Science in the Streets

Posted by Lissa Widoff on Thursday, April 13 2017


Lissa Widoff

We are all aware of the myriad threats to environmental protection, clean air and water, community health and assaults upon open government and policy processes that are unfolding with lightning speed under the Trump administration. As Switzer Fellows, we have an opportunity now to unite in support of our core belief that science and scientific integrity are essential elements of our human enterprise. As we seek to live in harmony with the limited resources of the natural world, and to bring forth equitable solutions to our societal needs, then this moment to stand together, and take to the streets for the March for Science and the People’s Climate March, perhaps can turn the tide against the denial of ecological reality and allow us to work together in service of a future that demands our passion, as well as our expertise.

I have been Executive Director of the Switzer Foundation for nearly 18 years, and one of the perennial conversations among Fellows, especially new Fellows, is how they can maintain their activism and policy interests while fulfilling expectations as a scientist for objectivity, nonpartisanship and credibility. Our message has always been, and still is, that there are ways to engage and influence with science and environmental leadership, either as experts in our fields, or as passionate advocates in our communities, and the two are NOT mutually exclusive. We must honor our calling and our responsibility to use our knowledge, privilege and experience for positive change in all arenas, and doing so should NOT threaten our standing as scientists and expert professionals.

The environmental movement is still working to ensure that environmental benefits are equally shared and to undo the systemic patterns of harm on low-income communities.  To do so, we must rely on science as well as citizen engagement to influence policy. Our expertise must face the rigors of policy and practice, as well as theory.

The Switzer Foundation has, at its core, a commitment to applied science – using expert knowledge to solve problems. Sometimes that expert science concerns toxic pollution in water, the health impacts of air pollution or mercury contamination in soils and food chain consequences. Other times it could be social science that helps us understand the economic and social barriers to positive environmental improvement. But in all cases we have literally “grown up” with the understanding that science is an important tool and an avenue for discovery, education and fascination for our natural world and our place within it. Let’s keep it that way.

The Switzer Foundation is a proud partner and sponsor of the March for Science.

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