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Policy & Politics

Published on November 28th, 2016 | by Tina Casey


500 Women Scientists + 1 Great Idea = > 10,000 And Growing

November 28th, 2016 by  

If you haven’t heard of 500 Women Scientists yet, you will soon. The group took shape as a series of text messages and emails after Election Day, and by last week it launched into a full fledged movement to fight anti-science and anti-women rhetoric.

The aim of 500 Women Scientists is to galvanize the scientific community into action. It started with an initial goal of getting 500 women scientists and their supporters to an online pledge affirming the foundational role of science in progressive societies. Within a few days the list of signatories has topped 10,000 and it shows no signs of slowing down.


500 Women Scientists Begins

500 Women Scientists got its start when Theresa Jedd, an environmental policy specialist at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, School of Natural Resources, began sharing some post-Election Day thoughts with her circle of friends.

The online discussions coalesced around a central goal of building an “inclusive scientific community dedicated to training a more diverse group of future leaders in science.”

In a blog post for the Union of Concerned Scientists, she describes how the idea fleshed out:

This kernel of an idea grew into an open pledge: to identify and acknowledge our shared values, to push for equality and stand up to discrimination, to support the education and careers of all current and future scientists, to engage with the public and communicate our science broadly, to foster an inclusive and encouraging learning atmosphere for women and girls, and to use the language of science to bridge divides and enhance global diplomacy.

Pledging And Acting

Sure, signing an online pledge is easy. 500 Women Scientists, though, makes it clear that adding your name to the list is the beginning, not the end. Written in the form of an “open letter to women of science,” it is a call to action:

The anti-knowledge and anti-science sentiments expressed repeatedly during the U.S. presidential election threaten the very foundations of our society. Our work as scientists and our values as human beings are under attack.

The language of action continues throughout the letter…

Many of us feel personally threatened by this divisive and destructive rhetoric and have turned to each other for understanding, strength, and a path forward.

…and places the US presidential election in the context of a larger problem:

Across the globe, women in science face discrimination, unequal pay, and reduced opportunities. Our work to overcome the longer-term degradation of the role science plays in society did not start with this election, but this election has re-ignited our efforts.

So, go ahead and sign on. If you do, be prepared to take action. Follow this link to see the full pledge and a list of action steps.

Traditional Lightbulbs And Masturbating Fetuses

As the pledge notes, this whole anti-science thing predates the 2016 Election cycle by a long shot. Here in the US there has always been a strong undercurrent of thought that clings to simple, easily grasped explanations regardless of whether or not they reflect any reality (see Scopes, Monkey Trial).

That undercurrent has ramped up into high gear in recent years in ways that highlight the threats described by 500 Women Scientists.

500 Women Scientists describe two kinds of threats. One is the universal threat of climate change. Along with our sister site PlanetSave, CleanTechnica has been keeping a running tab on the ways in which anti-science thought has thrown one obstacle in the path of people who are making every effort to bring the facts to the public.

Lying about climate science is just part of the equation. The ginned-up hysteria over new energy efficiency standards for lightbulbs represents another, equally insidious form of misinformation about climate change and the steps we can take to protect ourselves.

The other kind of threat is individual. Women are under attack in the US and elsewhere, not only as victims of crime but also as the objects of political force, in the form of abortion regulations that skip over the part about women’s health.

The common denominator is policymaking that ignores science and shoots whatever fish happen to be swimming around in the barrel.

That’s why you can often find a linkage between anti-climate rhetoric and anti-abortion rhetoric all tied up in one political package.

Texas Representative Michael Burgess, for example, roared into the media spotlight back in 2013 for his attempts to undercut the new lightbulb efficiency standards (which were imposed under the Bush administration, btw)…and for the “masturbating fetus” argument he deployed in favor of federal restrictions on abortion.

If you have some other examples of policymakers who have connected the dots between global warming and women’s reproductive health, drop us a note in the comment thread.

Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

Image (screenshot): via 500 Women Scientists.




About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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