Are We Going Backward?

Over the past few weeks, there have been a few things floating around the news, the blogosphere, and around the water cooler that really make me wonder if we’re going back in time:
– All the cuts to science in both Canada and the US (is it going on elsewhere too?)
– Cuts to the local education system
– The fact that women still make far less money than men
– The focus on violent behaviour in the NHL playoffs, how it’s just part of the game, and how that is actually bringing in larger audiences (while I’m losing complete respect for the game)
– Issues over reproductive rights in the USA

WTF is going on in our world right now? Is it just me, and all of a sudden I’m more aware of these issues, or do others feel the same?

Thankfully, there are new episodes of Glee, knitting, and good chocolate in this world to take my mind off things.

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Comments on: "Are We Going Backward?" (10)

  1. Hm, I think it's what to be expected since the 60-70ies when things changed the other way around (women's movement, birth control, golden science money days). The backlash and the “lull” of people not realising that these are not “regular rights that will stick around” but someone needs to constantly fight for them. (- I didn't really think like that before but have come to the conclusion that all these young people, like me, think it's a done deal with birth control for example. Forgetting that it was a hard battle from the beginning and now there are still very conservative people in power and that is a thorne in their eyes.

    Then it might have something to do with the fact that “the economy is bad and the world is uncertain”. However, the world in the 70ies wasn't too much better – Vietnamwar, OIL crisis, revolutions in Iran, Egypt, Lebanon etc, not to mention the hostage-airplane hijackings that were very prevalent for a while. Alas, people aren't thinking about that, it's always “we have never had such a hostile world as now”…. I think it's more about the power and who has it.

    Did you figure out that I'm having my feministic glasses on?

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  2. It's not just you who feels this way. These are strange, backsliding times.

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  3. Craig Pichach said:

    Part of it is that we are running out of money. Each time the government ran overbudget they essentially stole from the future. Now it is 30 years of debt catching up to us where not only do we need to cut back to balance but we have to pay back all the accumulated interest. And if we keep going you eventually end up where even if you put the entire budget into debt refinancing it is not enough and you end up like Greece. It's like Debt Due Us Part Government Edition and the sad thing is that the people who maxed out the credit cards are long gone.

    My concern is that science funding takes a backburner to everything these days and part of that is our fault. When we are taking money away from health care and education to put it into research – are we providing the same value? To me the research being done just isn't geared towards exciting Canadians and so it is hard to get people interested in diverting funding to pay for it. Research used to be grand projects that resulted in massive changes – Manhatten Project, Apollo. Look at the state of Mars research – all that money to take pictures with no answers. Why not scrap all the picture missions, save some $$$ and land a rig that actually gets some samples of water, life, etc. Let's get back to the days where research was about solving problems and answering questions – not just pictures and endless talk. Right now Apple provides more innovation and more answers then NASA so no wonder why people are willing to give them their money instead.

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  4. i'm disgusted by all of the reproductive rights bull-shit that's going on in the states. i'm so glad that there are some in that country that think they know what's best for women. um the last time i checked i still had full control and decision making power over what i do and do not do to MY body. who is some person sitting on some government council to tell any woman what they can and cannot do with regards to their reproductive health. didn't we already fight this fight??

    thank god we live in canada!! sorry for the rant. it just really gets my goat. šŸ™‚

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  5. Chall – I thought the point of them fighting for their rights in the 60s/70s was so future generations didn't have too. You're right though, we have ultra-conservatives in positions of power and want to turn all that around.

    hush – glad I'm not the only one.

    Craig – I can't count the number of things wrong in your comment. Nothing good from NASA/space research? Have you heard of MRI, GPS, or clean burning engines? All technology as a result of space research. Take a look at this site for tons of spin-off technologies: http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/nasacity/index2.htm

    Apple should thank NASA every time someone uses an app that tracks their location. They sure couldn't do that without GPS. In fact, Apple is continuously under fire for not being innovative at all – they take the ideas of other companies and put it in a pretty package (and I'm a Mac user).

    Healthcare vs research: the cost to the healthcare system to treat various diseases (such as Alzheimers) is tremendous. The amount of money that is diverted into research to prevent/cure these diseases (and therefore to reduce the burden on the healthcare system) is much less. It is way more cost effective to fix the problem than to keep treating the problem.

    All the cuts being made right now are out of ignorance and are short sighted.

    MJ – I just don't get it either. Are we not living in 2012?? How is it even possible that it's up for discussion??

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  6. Craig Pichach said:

    Wow. All I am saying is a little innovation / looking in the mirror and trying something different and exciting apart from joining the NDP rage against the machine probably would work better in the long run. You know, innovation to the point of challenging the worlds most difficult problems for the maximum benefit of all – what successful science programs used to be geared towards.

    To correct, NASA and the military cooperated in coming up with GPS and that was a long time ago. I dare you to compare that NASA to todays NASA. This is NASA post-Consellation program that cannot even put a man in NEO orbit where SpaceX can let alone heavy lift. Now compare the interest in old Apollo NASA todays NASA. Which program would you rather fund?

    I am supporter of investment in science, but I am immediately put off that you, a researcher, also just write off the national debt. The map at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_debt showing our debt-to-GDP at 90% while China and the third world is around 10-20% is a lie?? I guess I don't need to worry about the country ended up like Greece where we are just lucky to afford to run Universties? The idea that if only we dumped more money into health prevention our total health care cost would decline in no way reflects the increased cost of health technology. The real questions should be why can't GE build a cheap MRI? How can we bring down those costs? What are the opportunities? What you need to do is try to find a way to inspire students with less resources and more results. That is what is needed by Canadians? Why not try to do it? Why not challenge Canadians to solve the problem at hand and do more for less instead of ignoring it?

    I also reject your premise that commercialization does not translate into innovation. Commercialization means that you have a technology people want and will pay for. Let's try to get more commercialization and more partnerships going. Get the big bad industry boys to pay for your programs if the government can't. If the answer to getting people excited is a pretty package then put it in a pretty package!

    Finally there is so much wonder out there that people are so tuned to their seats they are demanding investment in science. Students should be asking why the sun's surface is hotter then the internal, where do the hydrocarbons on Titan come from? One question could change the second law of thermodynamics forever. The second question has lasting implications for life (is there life on Titan), organic chemistry and energy production.

    I want to fund that research. Unfortunately there are far more Canadian science blogs complaining about the US election then there are even acknowledging hydrocarbons on Titan let alone suggesting we send a rig to find the source, catalysts, etc. And I think that is sad.

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  7. Craig – for some reason your comment went into the spam trap. Sorry about that, but I've reposted here because I think you bring up some things that should be addressed.

    First, I'm definitely not an NDP supporter, but I also don't think the cuts the government are making to science in particular are good. I understand cuts need to be made, but I don't think they need to be abolishing entire programs (the NRC in Winnipeg, for example, is completely closing down).

    I also agree with you that science research needs to have some sort of usefulness to society, and that we can't just do it because we want to/it's cool/whatever. The purpose of basic science is to drive technology to new levels, and that can't be done in a commercialized setting.

    You bring up GE as an example – why can't they build cheaper MRI systems? It's not that they can't, it's that they won't. Several inexpensive MRI systems have been developed in the past two decades by researchers, only to have the patent bought by GE and then squashed. Why? Because they make more money selling the more expensive equipment.

    This is why funding basic science is so important. We are not guided by making a buck. We are guided by wonder and pushing the limits. Unfortunately, with government only being interested in product rather than knowledge, scientists will have to move toward reinventing the wheel instead of discovering/developing new modes of transportation.

    And yes, it is sad that we have to completely about elections and budget cuts instead of talking about science…but there will be little science being done if we don't address where our funding (or lack there of) comes from.

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  8. Nope you're not the only one. As an American living abroad and seeing what is happening my home country, makes me sick.

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  9. Nothing intelligent to say, but I thought you'd like this ;o)

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  10. Ruby – it's a tough time, that's for sure.

    Bee – Hehe! Thanks šŸ™‚

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