Forum, Dec. 3: The war on science continues

Published: 12/2/2019 10:00:18 PM
The war on science continues

Under the justification of “transparency,” the Trump administration has proposed a rule change that would prohibit the use of studies to create or update health-related policies or rules unless each data point can be verified (“Attacking science for political expediency,” Nov. 17).

This sounds reasonable until one realizes that the backbone of the science behind policy and rule formulation is clinical data linked with environmental data. The clinical data is available only because of confidentiality agreements between the study participants and researchers.

These agreements mean that health information from each individual remains confidential. If the Trump administration’s proposal is adopted, then much of the data used to create current and future laws and rules would no longer be admissible unless confidentiality is broken.

We are free to argue about how restricted or expansive public health policy can or should be. That is not the issue here. This is about the quality of the information used to create public health policy and rules. High-quality science has long been a point of pride for U.S. health-related policy, which has long been a model for the world.

This justification of “transparency” is both the height and the depth of political hypocrisy and chicanery. It is a mechanism to weaken rules that will enable more pollution, environmental degradation, human sickness and deaths to occur in the cause of increasing profits. It is also a death knell to scientific, objective, replicable and valid policymaking.

PAUL ETKIND

Grantham

The writer holds master’s and doctoral degrees in public health.

Trouble at Vermont’s DMV

Vermont Motor Vehicles Commissioner Wanda Minoli should be sacked immediately. It is under her watch that more than $15 million has flowed into the DMV coffers from the sale of personal data over the last four years (“Vt.’s DMV makes millions off personal data,” Nov. 30). Drivers were kept in the dark about this practice.

Meanwhile, the DMV offices are understaffed. I was turned away from the office in White River Junction because there were not enough seats. I have friends who had to wait for an hour to just get a number. If you go there most days at 8 a.m., most likely you will wait outside in a line, in the cold, until the doors are open.

JON APPLETON

White River Junction

Numerous, credible warnings

In America, the impeachment inquiry gets the headlines. In the wider world, it’s the climate emergency. President Donald Trump calls climate change a hoax. Early in his presidency he announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. His policies — seeking not to reduce but increase fossil fuel consumption and slow the growth of renewable energy — have worsened the crisis. This attack on the Earth’s future could have been stopped if he’d heeded numerous credible warnings.

■ A 2018 United Nations report stated that if global temperatures rise by just 1.5 degrees Celisus humanity will face dire climate-related risks and weather events — and the Earth is headed for a 3-4 degree increase.

■ Another 2018 report, released by the White House itself, in which scientists from 13 federal agencies stated that, “The past five years were the warmest ever recorded. Without steep pollution reductions, climate change will risk tens of thousands of U.S. lives every year by the end of the century.”

■A recent study by 11,258 scientists in 153 countries declared that the planet “clearly and unequivocally faces a climate emergency.”

STEPHEN GEHLERT

West Newbury, Vt.

The conclusion is inescapable

I have always considered myself to be a reasonable person who is willing to look for the possibility of dialogue and finding common ground when trying to understand people with whom I disagree. I have hit a wall.

Now that we have had nearly three years of a Donald Trump presidency, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that there is a word that can be used to describe the citizens and elected officials who continue to support a president who has told thousands of documented lies, calls his critics “human scum,” appointed self-serving and/or incompetent people to high posts, ignored the conclusions of every U.S. intelligence agency regarding the Russian meddling in our 2016 election, used the office of president to enrich himself in numerous ways, describes our free press, protected by the First Amendment, as “the enemy of the people,” attempted to bully the leader of a weaker ally into doing his bidding for his own political gain, and ignores the scientific facts regarding the existential threat that climate change poses for our planet. The word is “deplorable.”

Look it up.

RON EBERHARDT

Plainfield




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