It’s finally here. It’s time to vote. Today is the day. We aren’t going to get too busy or forget where our polling locations are. We won’t walk into the polls without researching all the candidates and measures. We’re prepared. Because we’re awesome and awesome people care about important things. We’re also going to encourage all our friends to vote, because peer pressure is a great tool for both good and evil.
Every time an election comes around, I get super excited to exercise my civic duty. It doesn’t matter if it’s a presidential nomination or a local neighborhood board member. I’m into it all. It’s a hard-earned honor. I know many of you have voted already, and bravo to you. I respect your overachieving nature, but I like to wait. And it’s not just because I’m a procrastinator. Walking up to the polls on that particular day helps me feel like part of a group effort to improve our world. I try to carry the spirit of the suffragettes and civil rights activists who sacrificed so much for that little ballot when I walk into the gym of my local public school. I can’t help it. This pull to action was ingrained in me as a tantrum-throwing infant, and I took my first joyful stab at presidential election voting as an elementary student. It’s even more fun when it counts.
By now, we’ve all decided how we’re going to vote. We’ve talked about how we’re cracking away at the ultimate glass ceiling and how hard that struggle has been. We’ve discussed how this election will shape the supreme court, what it means for climate change policy, and how it will impact healthcare in our country. We’ve talked about how important it is to pay attention to your local and state representatives, since they’re going to (hopefully) push forward effective social welfare policies in your communities. We’ve waded through the sexist nonsense that has been this campaign. We’ve told ourselves that despite veiled threats to disrupt our democratic process, we’ll make the right choice. We know what this election means for us all—young and old. But all that talk won’t mean much if we don’t actually show up and do something about it.
These two candidates couldn’t be more different, and there’s no convincing anyone which way to vote now. Tomorrow we’ll find out whether we’ll be led by an experienced civil servant and former cabinet member or an exploitative, ego-centric failed businessman turned reality television star. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but that’s not all. I’ll be proudly casting my vote for the first female president. I might cry. I might dance. I’ll probably do what is bound to become the world’s most popular new dance move: the cry and shimmy.
Today we’re going to talk about science and how it’s real. That should be the end of the post, but apparently some people had an even worse education than I did, so we have to keep going.
Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page and start with the scientific method. To understand why we should trust scientists, we should understand how they come to their conclusions. The method is a series of steps used to prove or disprove a hypothesis, and it’s pretty tried and true. You probably use it when you’re trying to figure out who ate your last yogurt or why you can’t keep your houseplants alive.
First, you look around and think about what you already know. You make some observations about the world around you. Next, you figure out what you don’t know yet and come up with a few good questions to which you’d like answers. This is like the interrogation portion of a buddy-cop movie, but the suspect is keeping real quiet. Then, based on what you know already, you develop with a hypothesis. After that, you make some predictions. These are not Ms. Cleo style predictions; they’ve got to be legit. You think carefully about what you might see during your tests and how that information will help you determine the answers to your questions. Then you get to the testing. You do a whole bunch of studying and collect a lot of data. You might do this part—the predicting and data collecting—a bunch of times. Science can be a little complicated. Finally, you develop a theory. Hopefully. Maybe you never do and you just work and work and work for the scientists that come after you.
In the world of science, theory doesn’t mean conjecture the way it does in other circles. To scientists, a theory is a principle developed through extensive testing. It’s very nearly a fact, but scientists are super open to being proven wrong, so they leave room for change.
So, now that we’ve got those basics down, we can turn to one scientific finding that’s particularly relevant to our decision in the coming election—climate change.
Most of us agree our climate is changing. We know this both because it’s about to be 80 degrees in November here and because polar bears are now forced further and further south due to melting ice. Or like a million other things. Just ask the people who live in Kiribati, a small island being drowned by the Pacific Ocean. You’d be hard-pressed to find people who don’t think it’s getting warmer, but it’s not hard to find ones who say we have nothing to do with it. This is where science becomes super useful.
There are people who have made it their life’s work to study the shifts in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and the consequences of those levels. That’s what they do every day. Well, not Sunday. We all know Sunday is for loungewear and pancakes. But on all those other days, when we’re running to the bank to deposit the paycheck we get for running meetings, they’re running calculations on the destruction of our planet.
We may not be able to do these experiments ourselves, but we can all read. I read every single day. You’re doing it right now. And we can think critically about who we trust and who we don’t. I trust the intelligent professionals, experts in their field, who have determined that the choices we’re making are contributing drastically to the rise in our atmosphere’s carbon dioxide. Groups like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the Australian Academy of Science, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If those names sound fancy and important, it’s because they are. These are organizations comprised of leading scientists from around the world, and all of them say humans are changing our atmosphere in a negative way.
Any reasonable person would look to these experts, read these albeit complicated scientific papers, and fall on the side of the facts. Any reasonable person. Not Trump. He thinks it’s all a conspiracy invented by the Chinese government to gain a greater hold on manufacturing. He sent that lovely tidbit out into the internet world in 2012 and it’s been following him around ever since. But he’s not the only one. We hear Republican candidates say over and over again that they aren’t scientists, hinting at the fact that they just can’t understand scientific facts and therefore cannot create policies based on them. Sometimes we hear them declare that climate change isn’t influenced by human activity. Sometimes they deny its very existence.
Here’s why this is a problem. When people hear over and over again that something isn’t their fault—something they really want not to be their fault, because they like eating hamburgers and driving big cars and buying a lot of plastic toys—they believe it. When they believe it, they don’t ask their politicians to change it. And if politicians aren’t forced to act in unpopular ways, they won’t. So climate and energy scientists have to spend a lot of time trying to prove to the public that climate change exists and that we’re the cause. It’s a waste. It’s a waste of their mental capabilities and its a waste of our resources. We have the answer. We know the truth. We need to spend that time, energy, and money on solving the problem that exists, not on convincing people that it’s real.
When Hillary Clinton accepted the presidential nomination, she declared, “I believe in science.” What she meant was she believes what nearly all scientists have determined and she will root her policies in that truth. It was a tiny little phrase that she shouldn’t have had to utter. It should be like someone saying, “I believe in tables.” Ridiculous. But if we’ve got to choose a starting point for this effort, I’m standing on the side of reality, and I’m standing with her.
Selfish reason for voting on November 8th:
You probably get a couple hours off work to do your civic duty. I bet no one would even notice if you grabbed a breakfast sandwich on the way back from the polls or took an extra walk around the block after putting your ballot in the box. Not only do you get the gift of participating in your own government, you get a few extra minutes to yourself to fulfill that responsibility. But only if you go vote.
So what do you want out of your morning on November 8th? A nice breakfast, a long walk, and a vote that shapes the future of your country or the same old dreary commute into the office for a community kitchen cup of coffee? The choice is up to you.
I spent all of last night handing out candy to adorable trick or treaters. There were a bunch of extra cute kids happily opening up their bags and baskets for a handful of sweets. Halloween has always held top-holiday status in my house. It’s an honor that was bestowed by my mother and carried on by my sister and I. Halloween should feel lucky. It had stiff competition, what with all those holidays dedicated to giving gifts and eating carbs. But Halloween is about candy, costumes, and community, so it rose up.
There’s very little that gives me as much joy as handing out candy to four year olds dressed as super heroes.
I want them all to grow up to be real-life super heroes. I want the tiny Iron Man to become an engineer. I want the little Elsa to grow up to be a climate change scientist. I want the miniature ninja turtle to be inspired to study biology in college. But it’s up to us to make that happen. We have to make sure those kinds of opportunities are available for all the kids in our communities, not just the ones in our homes.
Now that we’re all in a sugar-coma and stuck to the couch, we have plenty of time to investigate our local and state politicians. These are the people who help decide how our taxes are spent, who benefits from state and federal programs, and which laws actually get passed. The president is important, but it’s not all up to her.
So take some time today and check out who else is going to be on your ballot. Figure out which people will help all those tiny trick-or-treaters you met yesterday evening became scientists or writers or presidents, then vote for them.