You are here

The Long Arc

It's painful watching reactionaries and morons impede progress on important long-term projects (e.g. the Paris Agreement or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.) And, while it is cold comfort, it's worth recalling the victories we've won in the past.

I remember as a kid when unleaded gasoline was introduced. Previously, tetraethyl-lead was used, almost universally, to allow higher compression ratios in gasoline engines. Scientists fought a battle for years against powerful corporate interests to discontinue the use of lead which is a neurotoxin that causes profound damage during human growth and development. Eventually, they won. We won! Lead was phased out over a twenty-year period. During this time, when you went to the gas station both were available as "regular" or "unleaded". Finally, it was discontinued entirely and unleaded had become "regular". Since then, it's been proposed that leaded gasoline was a cause of a huge spike in violent crime. And soil near busy roadways is still heavily contaminated by lead. But we won! Science won! Trump and his corporate cronies won't be bringing back leaded gasoline.

I also remember ozone depletion. Scientists discovered that chemicals used in refrigeration and aerosols were causing ozone to break down in the upper atmosphere. Again, the corporate interests fought tooth-and-nail to obfuscate and undermine the science. But in the face of growing evidence about the seriousness of the threat, an international consensus lead to the banning of the ozone depleting substances. Trump isn't going to reverse that either.

These are both examples of victories won during a time when science wasn't under threat the way it is today. Now, the enemies of progress are trying to make it impossible to collect evidence about the effects of climate change. And to undermine education and defund basic science altogether. While it's painful to watch their moronic antics, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.