In tenth grade, I watched a documentary about how the organization and movement of the microscopic cellular universe reflects the organization and movement of our galaxy. I was changed forever.
I’d grown up fairly religious and this moment sent me into somewhat of a spiritual crisis. I fell in love with science. I dropped arts electives and took every single science course my high school offered. And in the end, my spirituality was profoundly strengthened by my newfound passion. In science I found worship – I found my way to explore and celebrate the constant unfolding wonder that is life.
Science is often pigeonholed as rigid or boring. But any good scientist knows that it is a wildly creative pursuit; a place where human curiosity is unleashed and stretched past the furthest limits of what we dream possible.
Science is where we preserve into adulthood that most tenacious of childhood questions: why?
Why? Every one of our most important discoveries, whether personal or societal, begins with those three letters.
Science is also a unique place where we feel comfortable saying “I don’t know”.
Science helps us answer huge questions, yes. But perhaps more importantly it helps us to admit that we don’t know everything.
And admitting uncertainty can be scary, even threatening.
Well, we all know how politicians respond to perceived threats.
We gather today in solidarity with our colleagues in the United States who are witnessing the swift wreckage of politics of fear. Politics that reject inquiry, that deny evidence, for the sake of maintaining a status quo that leaves almost everyone but the most elite behind.
We are here to call out a stunted, greedy ideology that sows distrust in facts and suspicion of science and in doing so puts us all in danger.
And we are here to say that what’s happening south of the border is really scary, and we’ve seen some great changes and advancements in Canada in recent years, but we know that science in Canada is still suffering.
A report released last week by David Naylor and his team tells us that across Canada, labs are closing, graduate students are losing their research jobs, and senior scientists are facing funding cuts that threaten to terminate decades of inquiry.
Canadian institutions are also being bought out by corporations with vested interests that might manipulate research for their own ends.
We are here to defend curiosity – to stand up for those who must ask “why?” free of political and corporate interference.
And we stand in solidarity because science, like climate change, knows no borders.
It was science that helped humans tap into the energy contained in coal, oil and natural gas. A century later, science alerted us to the havoc our addiction to fossil fuels is wrecking on our atmosphere.
I was recently asked to participate in a debate about whether manmade climate change is real. In 2017, that is unacceptable. Science has been telling us for decades that the debate is over.
Politics can’t change physics.
Denying climate change doesn’t make it go away. And science is essential to helping us confront the great crisis of our time.
I am here today to celebrate the bravery of science – those who ask questions and those who work to protect and uphold the answers. I am here to honour uncertainty and to defend the precautionary principle.
I am here in gratitude for the medical advancements that allow me to say I am 10 years cancer free.
And I am here to say see ya later fossil fuels, because science has helped us look into the sky and feel the breeze on our skin and dream of harnessing the renewable power of the sun and the wind.
Thank you science!