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The role of Science in decision making

Posted: 3:52PM November 18th, 2011 | Comments

Tuesday the Sustain Dane staff had the pleasure to hear Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator address a full house at Union South (you can too by watching her here!).  Lisa spoke with a very refreshing balance of idealism and realism that is not often conveyed by our appointed leaders. She spoke of many important messages for about 20 minutes then fielded questions from CAFO’s -concentrated animal feeding operations-  to the type of education that can land you as the EPA administrator.

A few points she made really hit home (so much so that they were scribbled on the note card indented for questions):

1.    Science is at the core of what the EPA does
2.    The choice between the economy and the environment is false
3.    Environmental Justice can and should be worked into laws
4.    Nation wide, long term, industry standards allow for innovation  
5.    Vast amounts of implementation happen on the state and community level

Each of these deserve their own conversation…but for today we will focus on number one - science is at the core of what the EPA does. While this is an incredibly simple statement, it’s important to circle back to the fundamentals.

So fundamental in fact, that after her public address she stopped at Leopold Elementary School (through our EPA Climate Showcase Community Grant, we are able to expand our work with MMSD on reducing emission) to see the good work of Madison’s budding scientists!

Incredibly simplified fact: pollutants cause major health problems such as asthma and pre-mature deaths. Reducing certain pollutants in our air and water will reduce the number of these preventable health problems.

She laid out the case for incorporating science in policy making and outlined how science laid the foundation for the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and therefore has played a critical role in bettering the lives of Americans through bettering the health of their environment. Administrator Jackson emphasized that we cannot solve today’s complex environmental, economic and social problems without science.

We need systems thinkers, we need scientists and we need policy makers who are willing to risk using real data to drive decision making.

(Jessie & Julie)

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