Scientists Biased, Talk Too Much: Confidential government memo.
Details here, in Blacklock’s Reporter: minding Ottawa’s business, August 11, 2014.
Tar sands, Alberta, Canada. Photo: The Nation.
The primary target of the confidential memo, John Smol, is a professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, a widely acclaimed paleolimnologist (fathoming the life stories of lakes), and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change.
Why does the Harper government want to silence John Smol and his co-researchers? Because they know too much. The current regime in Ottawa is an aggressive booster of the enormously destructive tar sands colossus, and is determined to keep Canadians strictly on message: tar sands = good for Canada, with minimal harm. Period. Trouble is, their message keeps getting shredded by the findings of honest science.
Why won’t John Smol shut up? He knows too much:
“The huge problem is that many environmental problems are long scale. They can take years, decades to show up – or longer, sometimes I work in centuries, even millennia. But politicians think in terms of four years, at best. Look at the tar sands – go ahead, pump it out as fast as you can, we’ll be out of here in four years, what do we care? Industry is even worse, they think in quarters, 90-day intervals. Costs for the future are horrendous, but they’re not in this fiscal cycle. When things go extinct, they’re extinct forever. You destroy a river system, it’s gone. Destroy a fish population, it’s gone. How do you gauge what that’s worth?”
Delve into John Smol’s research, paleolimnology, and why he speaks out, in Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science. Available September 4, 2014, in print and e-book from Between the Lines.
“Who’s to say, now that Google has become an arm of law enforcement, how long that arm will reach? I mean, can we really trust a giant transnational corporation to have our best interests at heart?” Thom Hartmann, The Daily Take, via Truthout, August 06 2014.
Bloomberg News, a US business paper, August 2013: “The government uses corporations to circumvent its prohibitions against eavesdropping domestically on its citizens. Corporations rely on the government to ensure that they have unfettered use of the data they collect.”
As Thom Hartman notes, “we can all agree that child porn is a bad thing.” But then who’s next? Recent exposures of NSA tactics by Edward Snowden and others have made clear that the surveillance state and its corporate partners will grab everything they can, then they decide later who and what is good or bad.
In Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science, I asked David Lyon about the comforting mantra that if we’ve done nothing wrong, we have nothing to fear. Director of the Surveillance Studies Centre, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, Lyon replied: “The idea that I’m innocent until proven guilty is seriously compromised if I’m placed arbitrarily in a category of suspicion, and the reassuring notion that if I have nothing to hide I have nothing to fear is completely falsified when my name is put on a list about which I know nothing.”
Take this blog, for example. Its purpose is to share news and questions about how science is done, and what impacts it has on nature and humanity. But what’s to stop Google from deciding that a blog critical of Google should be shut down?
There are alternatives to the giant trawler called Google. None of them is 100% secure, but at least some browsers are less inclined to sell us all to the highest bidder. One example: DuckDuckGo. And others.
So who cares, some say.
David Lyon again: “Indifference is appropriate only for those who think that efficiency, convenience and speed qualify as values to be placed over openness, fairness, and the accountability of those whose task it is to process personal data.”
Join David Lyon in tracking the trackers.Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science, coming September 4, 2014 from Between the Lines.