Foreword Reviews

Science Literacy Essential in Democracy; That's Why We Focus on Climate Books

Back when I was a copy editor for The Detroit News twenty years ago, our ultraconservative editorial page would launch red-faced tirades against then-Vice President Al Gore for his prediction of the end of the internal combustion engine. Heresy in Detroit! About a decade later, I covered a group of automotive technology executives meeting here in my hometown of Traverse City, Michigan, and (without much fuss) they laid out a specific roadmap and timeline for phasing out the internal combustion engine.

Climate Change
Today, automotive companies around the world are going through a renaissance of innovation with the understanding that cleaner technology is not only good for the environment, but is also good business. What drove the change was a combination of factors, including government regulation and incentives, and an enthusiastic group of environmentally conscious early adopters who supported companies like Tesla and GM’s first electric vehicle, the Chevy Volt.

Previously, there was always the underlying presumption of a scientifically informed citizenry demanding that government and business work together to solve the very real climate-change crisis. Today, that concept is under attack by the federal government, which is depending on the opposite—a scientifically illiterate public, to accept the lie that the climate-change is a hoax and most of the world’s scientists are colluding with China (or whoever) in a vast conspiracy to regulate business.

They might succeed for a little while. But, ultimately, scientific truths find their way into the hands of citizens who want to be informed. It’s why I’m very proud that Foreword Reviews can play a small role in educating the public by reviewing books about the science and business of climate change in every issue of the magazine and devoting the month of March to online coverage of climate change issues. We cover the independent book industry, so we’ll have authors, book reviews, and other special features devoted to the issue.

Trust me. Even if you’re a climate skeptic, reading books on the topic is better than reading your uncle’s conspiracy-theory-filled Facebook feed. The thing about conspiracy theories is that there is an answer for everything, and if you don’t believe in the conspiracy, you’re either part of it or have been duped by it. Conspiracy theories are not bound by left and right politics. The anti-vaccination movement runs across the political divide. The left has turned anger toward Monsanto’s questionable business practice into a wrongheaded dismissal of the entire science of genetic modification.

The solution is to read, and read some more. Read about the scientists who have devoted their lives and careers to studying it, the innovative businesspeople who are coming up with solutions, and the irrefutable science that shows how humans are causing global warming, and what we can do about it.

There is a reason authoritarian regimes go after the scientists and intellectuals first. Truth is a threat to a wall of lies. The thing about science, though, is that it can handle skeptics. Indeed, it thrives on skeptics. Science is not a belief system or an ideology. If a scientist came up with evidence that global warming was not real, and it was peer reviewed and corroborated by enough scientists around the world, then science can “change its mind.”

But, for now, the evidence is overwhelming. Oh, there will always be “researchers” like Andrew Wakefield, the fraud responsible for falsely claiming a link between vaccines and autism, thus creating new epidemics of previously eradicated diseases due to parents refusing to vaccinate their children. There will always be businesspeople, like the founder of Trump University, who will get away with whatever he can as long as it can make him a buck.

But the long view favors truth.

I think of the scientists who have had enough and are gearing up to run for office, themselves. And I think of the brave men and women at the EPA who, despite government-enforced climate denial, are still essentially shouting the words of Galileo when the Church forced him to recant his discovery that the Earth moves around the sun: “And still it moves.”


Howard Lovy
Howard Lovy is executive editor at Foreword Reviews. You can follow him on Twitter @Howard_Lovy

Howard Lovy

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