A Story No Less Important

All this talk about global warming and the current backlash from “anti-environmentalists” reminds me of something I experienced only months ago.  


Photo of Dr. Jim Hanson courtesy of the New York Times 

I attended conference at the New School in January 2006 entitled “Politics & Science” and the place was buzzing because Jim Hanson was there to speak.  I didn’t quite know who he was at the time, but had heard some vague reference to a NASA scientist who had been silenced because of his statements on global warming and how this had involved some young unqualified political appointee in a power position. 

This young man (I later found out his name: George Deutsch) took the heat shortly after and resigned.  But, I suspect that he was not the only one who was engaged in this attempted censorship.

The two day conference featured many slides that demonstrated increased levels of Carbon, Temperature, and Sea Level. 

It was a bit disconcerting, but no shock. 

When Dr. Hanson got up and spoke he was reading off of a paper and his lecture was over the heads of most people sitting in the room; this was disappointing.  Suddenly though he stopped and looked out at us from under the glaring stage lights.  He said something to the effect of “Look, I have to tell you something about what is happening to scientists working for the government.”  He went on to tell us that scientists are afraid to speak out because they think that they might lose their jobs or their funding, but strange things are happening.  As an example he told us that if a government employed scientist wants to talk with the outside world about their research, they have to have a third party from the administration listening on the other end of the phone.  He finished by saying that this is America not Stalinist Russia or Germany in WWII.  We applauded him.

This information was both disconcerting and a shock.

Although Hanson lectures around the country about the dangers associated with the unknown path we are walking due to our unrestrained consumption, he does not get much press time.  I would encourage all to check out his message.  It speaks not only to the possible dangers associated with consumption rates, but also to the dangers of what politics is doing to science.

As a side note, Deutsch, the political appointee, in his own defense, stated that the accusation against him was because:

“It’s a culture war issue. They do not like Republicans. They do not like people who support the president. They do not like Christians.”

Lets return to the planet and the issues currently affecting it!


Dr. Jennifer Veilleux is a geographer, writer, and artist. For more than a decade, she has worked on scientific research and security issues facing water resources shared across political boundaries. Research and curiosity has taken her to more than 50 countries on 5 continents, often to remote locations and marginalized communities. Veilleux takes portraits of people she encounters in her field work and recently released a collection, Portraits from Rivers of Change, that can be viewed here: www.jenniferveilleux.com. These portraits highlight two separate communities, one on the Mekong River the other on the Blue Nile River, facing relocation due to dam development. Dr. Veilleux works for Florida International University as a post doctoral associate for the Institute of Water and Environment and manages SELVA, the Serengeti-Lake Victoria Sustainable Water Initiative, a research project on water security of the Mara River in the Upper Nile basin of Tanzania. She maintains a blog, The Way of Water, dedicated to news and commentary about development on the Nile and Mekong, general water resources issues, and special topics related to women in science. She lives in Miami with her cat Mr. FC Sweet Tea.