The following letter, written by Dr. Natalie Schmitt, gives a unique perspective on what can be considered a very dire situation in today’s society. In fact, this letter summarizes a big problem for which Lelia Media hopes to provide solutions. Dr. Schmitt originally wrote this in support of her fellow countryman and actor, Samuel Johnson, founder of Love Your Sister. We feel it makes a very powerful Problem Statement for our Business Case.
The Devaluation Of Science
Political agendas and the worshipping of the mundane
By Dr Natalie Schmitt.
As a conservation scientist deeply passionate in helping to correct the damage we humans have inflicted on this precious planet of ours, I have grave concern about what we value in our society…..or rather what we don’t value!
This growing and disturbing epidemic which values anti-intellectualism, consumerism, celebrity and the mundane over science, humanitarianism and spiritual growth is the new ‘weapon of mass destruction’ which should be feared more than any issue facing the world today!
In the west, we have become so ‘privileged’ and so removed from nature and what it is to be human that our values have become perversely skewed, which has permeated our entire political and social fabric.
Sure sure….you might be thinking….here’s yet another scientist having a moan…boring!!! But my story is a painfully similar one to not only other passionate scientists out there trying to make a difference, but humanitarians, artists, social activists and visionaries as well….the very people we should be valuing if we want to make this planet a better place.
As a conservation geneticist with a 10 year education, originally specialising in whale research, I have a deep understanding of the way political (economic) and media agendas influence what science is funded and what is not.
When whales were the focus of the media and high on the political agenda with Australia’s court case against Japan on scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean, not surprisingly, research funding was ‘relatively’ easy to come by.
Its not that there was necessarily an urgency to conduct this research because the species we were studying were at risk of extinction or of critical conservation importance compared to other species, its ultimately because they had political and media value (whales invoke high emotion in people – people just love whales!).
I now have a project that will revolutionise the way we monitor endangered species and a potentially huge impact on the illegal trafficking of wildlife parts, yet finding funding for the research and paying myself a very modest wage (and I mean modest!) has become next to impossible.
I, like so many others like me can tackle this in two ways: we try and find a way of aligning the project to a political agenda to get government funding (hmmm there must be some way we can link this with the coal industry?……), or we dumb it right down and add something to it that will appeal to the media and hence the general public for other funding (hmmm maybe we can get a Kardashian to endorse it?….)…….can you see the problem with this scenario? Should we really have to do this?
Now I’m not saying that projects funded because of political or media agendas are not important, many of them are. Generally speaking however, this system is taking funding and value away from projects and ideas that can make big conservation impacts and many inspiring and passionate scientists are simply giving up altogether because its all too hard to use our skills to make a positive difference in the world.
The political system and the growing strain of public apathy and anti-intellectualism is killing truly ‘helpful’ science and worthwhile ideas that can greatly inform political policy……rather than the other way round!
Its time we turned our value system around 180 degrees…..