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Science, RC, and Care of the Environment

At the August 2013 International Care of the Environment Leaders’ Conference, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a group of us met in a topic group called Scientists in Care of the Environment. We were from different backgrounds and experiences, but we all agreed that science has to be part of the discussion in care-of-the-environment work and the development of a care-of-the-environment draft policy.

Too much information comes to the public in an altered or distorted form, making confusion difficult to unravel. We can’t fight environmental racism or abuse of the world without good science as part of the discussion. For good policy to develop and succeed, and for a better perspective for ecological health over the long-term, we need scientific voices giving accurate and precise information.

Good science is a powerful tool for change. In any struggle, it can help reveal lack of integrity and honesty. It can become an ally in overcoming the racism, sexism, and other oppressions at work in environmental struggles.

In the topic group, we discussed examples of environmental damage in which good science carried the day1 in changing or eliminating harmful practices. Do you have examples, from your own lives, in which scientific truth and accuracy played an important role in stopping an environmental or community abuse?


We need to ramp up2 the numbers of scientists in RC and increase their participation, perhaps with Wygelian leaders’ groups3 or an approach like United to End Racism.4

If we in RC aren’t paying attention to science, we can be left with empty or misleading arguments. When a developer says, “All scientists agree . . . ,” we must be able to respond with “No, not all scientists agree—only your highly paid consultants like this plan.”

Often in scientific work, a person from the more dominant country takes up more space in an argument or the most fluent English speaker dominates a discussion. Good science is international in scope and brings out the opinions and traditions of non-English speakers. But for good communication to happen, scientists need a way to speak and listen to one another. Co-Counselors can help with this, with long-term friendships, collegiality, cooperation, and effective listening.

Integrity in research and honesty in its presentation are essential to good science. Reaching scientists with RC will help keep scientific integrity and authenticity at the core of care-of-the-environment work.

Like other workers, scientists who speak out are often discredited or even targeted for destruction. Some are terrified about maintaining their careers and thus can be manipulated. They need allies to remind them that they are good and can fight as effectively as anyone.


We also discussed how artists and scientists can be allies to each other. Although often widely separated by tradition, artists and scientists have much in common. They both work by observation, experiment, and trial and error. Both of them can cause a shift in perspective or a change in some traditional viewpoint. Curiosity and creativity play major roles in both traditions. Both disciplines use light, color, and structure in their study and respectfully honor expression and discussion. It may be time for a joint artists’ and scientists’ workshop.

Randy Smith
Portland, Oregon USA
Reprinted from the e-mail discussion 
list for RC Community members

1 “Carried the day” means made the main difference.
2 “Ramp up” means expand.
3 A Wygelian leaders’ group is a group of leaders and potential leaders of a particular constituency in which each person takes a turn doing the following: (1) reporting on what he or she has been doing in the last period, with regard to the constituency, (2) saying what he or she thinks is the current situation facing the constituency, from his or her viewpoint, (3) sharing what he or she proposes to do as a leader in the next period, and (4) discharging on what is getting in the way of his or her leadership. The group does not make any group plans but rather serves to encourage individual initiative. It meets only when the members feel a need for meeting.
4 United to End Racism is a project of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities in which delegations of Co-Counselors attend wide-world social change events to share what we’ve learned in RC about ending racism.

Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00