Written by: Alfonso Bello
Illustrated by: Matthew Profeta
In as far as I can remember, I had decided I wanted to pursue medicine after I discovered the joy of wanting to be a person for others. Admittedly, I wasn’t the best at science, though I got by and exemplified my continued curiosity in life and biology. Then, it struck me. Entering high school, I had been bombarded with subjects that had no relation to science whatsoever. Political issues in corruption, greed, and poverty were only some lessons I suddenly had to learn about. I embraced those subjects. I made a name for my writing and always found relevance in politics. To this day, some people ask me why I did not take up a course that was politically inclined. The signs were on the walls: I loved to write, I loved to analyze, and I loved philosophic and political thinking, yet I chose biology.
You might call me foolish, but I told myself that politics was not a singular subject but an encompassing one, the same way that science encompasses so many other fields. I knew there was an overlap and it showed. Politics and science are powerful in their own right but recognizing that overlap would make this combined entity unbeatable. Some of the government’s policies are grounded on science; your health insurance, the analytics of health given to us, and your rights to affordable care. Likewise, some of your laboratory experiments have to be legalized and reviewed ethically—case in point, science and politics complement each other.
Yet, when it came time to listen to science, we stayed turned away from it. We prioritized politics over science, thinking that jargon-ridden scientists were know-it-alls and that the simpleton politicians were the key when they were obviously not. When the pandemic took the world by storm, we dared its effects and we suffered. When government projects were questioned for their health and environmental damage, they still pushed through despite the overwhelming backlash. The imbalance of power has affected who people need to listen to, our scientists.
The biggest victim
Perhaps even before talking about the pandemic, we must take into account the greatest victim of this imbalance: our Earth. For decades, scientists have been telling us about climate change and how immediate and long-standing action is necessary for our planet’s survival. Governments around the world listened but they did the bare minimum. There was no work put into it—they bandaged a solution. Today, we continue to consume items by the millions that continue to damage our ecosystems.
I am not blaming you. We live in a system so divisive and so ridden with a thirst for convenience that we have no choice but to succumb to that mindset of having all this waste. We are caught in the crossfire of a deceivingly simple society under the guise of bureaucracy. We conform to these systems that pay no attention to science as we have no choice but to do so. Scientists continue to speak up but their voices fall on deaf ears because we live in a noisy modern world centered around hustle and bustle. It is as if scientists had suddenly stopped existing, it is as if they are here for mere token reference.
Dare I say that it’s simple to deconstruct this phenomenon. Those who have the power to continue proliferating this system are in it for the money and more power. Thus, what happens is that they prioritize money over the actual trees that are cut down to print that money and muffle all the noise against it with louder and more attractive noises from our technology. Unfortunately, they can and they have been getting away with it—there is no accountability.
Powerful businesses hide their processes and, as mentioned, they do the bare minimum to keep up with appearances. They would rather state that they are “doing something, at least” rather than saying “we are doing our best.” It now then translates into prioritizing the economy over the environment and our welfare.
It’s a shame that the technology that benefits us is the very cause of the damage done to our Mother Earth.
Exposed in the open
It’s a saddening occurrence that we can still draw parallels from the way science was treated when it came to climate change and contemporarily with the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic shocked the world, changing it forever, and we let it do so because we aren’t learning from our mistakes.
When we started shifting back to the new normal, people feigned ignorance to science because of poor education and misinformation—it came at the cost of human lives. They never paid attention to keeping their mask on and getting vaccinated, the excitement of normality simply overwhelmed rationality. In the Philippines alone, people on the streets don’t wear their masks properly. Even when they are asked to social distance, they bid no care. People would rather party than pay attention to the science of their health and welfare. They become happy when they no longer need to wear masks and angry when the government suddenly has to impose restrictions and precautions again because we are still in the middle of a pandemic.
Suddenly, it is somehow science’s fault for being the way that it is even when the role of science is to keep others safe and understand the dangers for us. Science is suddenly seen as something that restricts rather than protects and is further stigmatized as this exclusive field that no one can enter. Thus, people would rather not bother looking into science and facts, they would rather let their politicians handle it for them and, as a result, they fall prey to disinformation and simplification. What results in all of this is the demonization of science and mistrust of it.
When you blur the line between politics and science in a way that antagonizes science, you risk people becoming so skeptical of science that they intentionally fall deaf to facts. At that point, it is no longer a matter of being poorly educated or uneducated in science, it is a matter of ignorance. Ignorance is dangerous, especially when the facts are staring at your face.
What comes after all of this? Earlier this year, hundreds of climate activist groups around the world composed of scientists and environmental defenders took to the streets as, to this day, the climate change situation remains an issue and was only elevated due to the pandemic. This was a show of force that, in a literal sense, showed scientists acting in a state of crisis. They blamed governance and lack of accountability on the rich who continue to devalue the preservation of resources and destruction of our planet. It was a serious sign that the problems were bursting and that those who understood it had no choice but to radicalize by explicitly protesting.
It’s very much cultural for people to protest in order to see change, we see this in political rallies, one might ask: why must change happen only when something explicit happens? Must common people, now even scientists, rally on the streets just to make a point? It brings to light, how oblivious we are to each other’s problems by asking who exactly is at fault in all of this. Some might say it’s scientists who fail and complicate science in a manner that fearmongers, now they are seen as desperate. Most might say that it is the businesses and governments who pay no mind to the ethics of their doings.
I say: does it still really matter anymore?
We will get nowhere by continuously pointing fingers and being bureaucratic with science. You can tax those businesses or silence scientists but what good would that do when the planet is still dying? When you blur the line, it is no longer money or recognition that is at stake, but our well-being and, more importantly, our planet.
We need to start seeing the ways that science and politics can harmonize together. Using the influence of politics in combination with the fact-driven fields of science garner you a healthy information ecosystem; a system that listens to science and where its policies are backed up by it.
We must embrace the jargon-heavy fields that are of service to humanity. How else have we been able to differentiate variants of COVID, discover solutions for fixing our ozone layers, and normalize wellness for our health and the preservation of our ecosystems?
It is shameful that we have to be divided even when it comes to our welfare and our planet. It’s no wonder that scientists are speaking up because politicians are silent and those scientific problems in silence are deafening. It is even more shameful that the scientists that dare to speak up are not only silenced but ignored.
So, I say, do your part; take a stand. Contrary to these heartbreaking truths, have no shame in being that person who still advocates for science even when it seems so niche to do so. Keep hoping that people wake up to the reality that science has to be administered together with our politics in order for us to improve our conditions. In a literal sense, emphasize that we have to “listen to the science.”
Now an aspiring scientist myself, I take the extra time to understand the mechanics of science, and, personally speaking, it has been one of the most fulfilling deeds I do every day. I look back and see how far I’ve come, I have no regrets in choosing biology because, when you blur the line, they’re all connected. You learn that the world we live in is so much more than just money and cars, it is every leaf and grain of sand worth uniting, studying, and fighting for.
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