Tag Archives: Endangered Species

Holiday Greetings!

Written (late) December 2008, by Brock Evans

Dear Family and Friends,

Yep. “Things are a little late this year,” as the song goes. But for good reasons we think. For example, we just returned yesterday from what Brock calls “a Norman Rockwell kind of Christmas”, meaning that so much reminded us of the popular Saturday Evening Post covers, from those more innocent times when we were children in this season. All of it–the lights, the presents under the tree, the warmth and the music everywhere, occurring amidst the happy (and noisy) chaos of delighted scampering grandchildren. ‘These are the kinds of time we dream about’, says Brock. …and how blessed we feel for being actually able to experience them all over again. Now.

Better late than never. . . another unanticipated benefit is that we got to read your own beautiful and interesting cards and newsletter first–another real treat. We now feel so reconnected Thank you. So much fun, in fact, that we may just be ‘late’ again next year!

So back to the rest of this (mostly) happy and eventful year; what’s been going on in the Evans/Garcia household? Basically a bit of this and other bits of that. . ..yet all together, it has seemed to us, woven into one pleasant, challenging, and adventurous tapestry. Some important markers and milestones, and some sadness too.

At Georgetown University, Linda continues on as Director of, and teacher in, the ever more successful (and popular with students) Masters Program: Communication, Culture and Technology. Indeed its great success (plus what Brock calls her ‘spreading renown from pervious writings”) has attracted international recognition. eg. Linda’s appointment to the Technology Assessment Board of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, and an invited lecture at the Central European University (Budapest) on “The Future of the University.”

But best of all for Linda has been her blog. Begun in July, in response to a challenge from Brock, it quickly became what Brock describes as a ‘brilliant and articulate set of essays which tie together ‘unrelated’ things from ‘real life’ (Such as desert canyons, frogs, Thanksgiving, etc.) into the network theories she teaches daily.

Of course Brockie, ever the ‘modest’ one, invites you to read the blog entry featuring him (Living with a Legend), which is about a wonderful Leadership Award he just received.

Brock has not been idle through all this activity, even as he (His words) ‘basks in the reflected glow of Linda’s accomplishments” (to see what the really means, see below, under ‘travels”) Still President of the Endangered Species Coalition, still speaking and lecturing about conservation, the Endangered Species Act, and–most importantly for him–still always reminding the new ones coming on (in such places as Ohio, Boston, and California) that “no matter what the odds, you can do it.”

While delighted about the results of the election (“it seems that once again we have our country back,” we say to each other and friends), Brock, ever the wary political animal, warns that some of the new faces may likely not be much friendlier to environmental values than those just replaced. So this is not a time to relax, or to cease striving; not if we want to pass on a sustainable and beautiful earth into the future, he says.

While most of the travels were business related, one turned out to be among the most memorable ever. That one was a visit to the University of Wyoming for a day-long series of lectures in October, time to coincide with the anticipated birth of new grandson, Kaydon–to son Noah, and Sarah, who live in Fort Collins, just an hour away.

The lectures and visit to the splendid facilities at the University of Wyoming (many of Brock’s papers are deposited there at its renowned American Heritage Center) were thus a high point of the whole year and not only because of the lively sparkling interchanges with students and faculty. But also because of that anticipated ‘afterwards,’ namely, Brock’s first meeting with our third grandchild who Brock termed after a few days of holding and admiring, as “a very very hungry and fast-growing delightful little gnome, who could just about fit into the cup of one hand while I fed him.” Not any more! In his latest pictures, the tyke almost completely fills out a Washington Redskins T-shirt, his first gift from his grandfather.

Family: After a spell of experiencing the downside of this ‘new economy’ son Joshua now is a full tim IT engineer with a firm in Northern VA, while Stephanie continues her job as artist-in-chief for celebrity magician Chris Angel. Stepfather Wayne sadly passed away last January, and now Brock’s 95-year old Mom, Adele, lives with sister Lynne and Mark at their home on Long Island. Part of our “Normal Rockwell Christmas” included a warm and cosy visit there, and, again, more spirited conversations. “We only hope, if and when we reach 95, that we can be as much fun to talk with as Mom is,” we say to each other after each such visit. That other ‘grandchild’ part of our Christmas was spent with Steve, a successful management consultant, and Supermom Haley. . .and with the delightful causes of that happy chaos, 8 year old Ben, and 5-year old Sophie.

TravelThe picture this year is from a beautiful trip to the canyons of Southern Utah in July. The smiles on our faces are because of the happy news just received at Brock’s visit to the Huntsman Cancer Hospital in Salt Lake City, where he was pronounced to be ” still in complete remission” from the bone marrow cancer that struck at him six year ago. And, a spectacular 8-day adventure in Vienna, Prague (met by a friend from Slovakia) and Budapest. The reason was Linda’s invites, referenced above. But Brock said: “I’m not gonna miss this one. . .” so while Linda lectured and did Board things, Brock wandered happily through the old cobbled streets, cathedrals, and ancient monuments of places long dreamed of, plus savoring delightful restaurants when Linda was one.

Another eventful and happy year. Thank you for being such good friends and for letting us share our activities with you. Love, Brock and Linda

Value Free; Value Added

Preparing for my Technology and Society class unveiled an interesting paradox. Looking back from an historical perspective, I was struck by how the term value free science has become a very value ladened word.

looking back from an historical perspective, I was struck by how the term value free science has become a very value ladened word.  

Indeed, this is a curious unintended consequence! For, as John M. Jordan documented in Machine-Age Ideology: Social Engineering & American Liberalism (1998), social scientists have, for more than a half century, diligently sought to rid their disciplines of all interpretations and ideological perspectives. As Jordan pointed out, the ultimate goal of these social scientists–which included such luminaries as Thorstein Veblen, John Dewey, Walter Lippman, Edwin Gay, and Herbert Croly, among others–was not only to generate new knowledge, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to enhance democratic politics by replacing ideologically oriented politicians with value free experts.

Backfire  (courtesy of Tohoscope)

Backfire (courtesy of Tohoscope)

Assessing the political situation today, one can only say that the efforts of these social scientists clearly backfired. For, while most academics remain standoffish, isolated in their ivory towers creating value free science, politicians–such as John McCain and Sarah Palin–have clearly gone over the top in contending that personal values and personalities trump policy analysis. Equally problematic , in terms of differentiating between facts and ideology, are the growing efforts by today’s political leaders to employ the work of scientists to cloak private interests in what is ostensibly value free analysis

politicians–such as John McCain and Sarah Palin–have clearly gone over the top in contending that personal values and personalities trump policy analysis. 

We seem to have come full circle in this regard. For, not without some irony, today’s opponents of the Administration’s performance disdainfully equate the present government’s science with political science. (Statement of Liz Godfrey, policy director for the Endangered Species Coalition. )

The Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans have been especially pernicious in characterizing scientific studies whose conclusions it opposes as junk science, while labeling those with which it agrees as good science. The Department of Interior’s analyses of scientific data calling for protection of endangered species provides one interesting case in point. For example, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, which conducted a survey of Fish and Wildlife Scientists in 2005, Julie MacDonald, a political appointee in the Department of Interior, consistently demanded that the Agency’s scientists alter their findings so as to justify not listing imperiled species such as the Gunnison sage grouse, the California tiger salamander, the roundtail chub, Gunnison’s and White-tailed prairie dogs, and the Mexican garter snake. According to one survey respondent:

I have never before seen the boldness of intimidation demonstrated by a single political appointee. She has modified the behavior of the entire agency. I believe that there should be a thorough investigation of her abuse of discretionary authority and modification of science information provided in the FWS documents. (Noah Greenwald, Seattle-Post Intelligencer December 20, 2006)

Such shenanigans are not limited to one Federal Agency. EPA’s former administrator, Stephen Johnson, was also forced to resign, after the union representing the vast majority of EPA scientists accused him of chronic mendacity, information suppression, and overriding his science advisors in setting new ozone standards (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Newsletter, Spring 2008). One symptom of this behavior was the Agency’s decision to close half of its libraries, which housed a good portion of EPA’s earlier scientific studies ( PEER Review Winter 2007, p.9). Equally telling was Vice President Chaney’s role–uncovered by the Washington Post–in overriding scientists’ efforts to restore endangered Salmon in the Klamath Basin by redirecting water from the Klamath River, and the fish, to agribusiness. Only after 90,000 fish had died was this decision reversed by the courts.

When it comes to the realm of politics, value free science may not be the goal to strive for. Perhaps what is needed instead is value added science.

Where do we go from here? When it comes to the realm of politics, value free science may not be the goal to strive for. Perhaps what is needed instead is value added science. Building on Habermas’ model of the public sphere, value added science might be conceived of as the product of a dialogue among diverse actors–hard scientists, social scientists, and value based interests alike. However, instead of taking place in local coffee houses, the discussion might be organized and orchestrated within the government itself. A dialogue that links interests and scientific analyses in an open, transparent fashion, adds tremendous value to the political debate while identifying and enhancing the array of subject matter ripe for scientific investigation. This idea is hardly far-fetched. One need only consider the successes of the National Academy of Science and the former Office of Technology Assessment.