The most brilliant minds should be directed to solving Earth’s greatest challenges. So says Sir David King, former UK chief scientist, in remarks to the British Association Science Festival. He suggests we spend less time and money on space exploration and particle physics and more on climate change, reports the BBC.
“The challenges of the 21st Century are qualitatively different from anything that we’ve had to face up to before,” he said. “This requires a rethink of priorities in science and technology and a redrawing of our society’s inner attitudes towards science and technology.”
His remarks come just as the UK is celebrating the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest physics experiment, deigned to understand why matter has mass. The UK has contributed $900 million to the LHC, the most ever invested by that country in a single science project. “I would just suggest that we need to pull people towards perhaps the bigger challenges where the outcome for our civilization is really crucial,” he said.
Nothing ‘perhaps’ about it. I’m a big fan of particle physics and all that cool stuff about the beginning of the universe. But until we solve the pending end of our own little planetary universe we need to funnel a short ton of more science funds that way. Why aren’t we? And why, even at the Democratic National Convention, did most speakers either never mention climate change or swallow the phrase sheepishly? Why such fear to speak out? Why so little fear of silence?
Julia Whitty is Mother Jones’ environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.