Jane Goodall. Jacques Cousteau. E.O. Wilson. Rachel Carson. You've heard of them, right? But, you probably don't need to take off your shoes to finish counting how many truly famous environmentally-focused scientists you know the names of. With climate change being on the tips of everyone's tongue - and for good reason - scientists have a more important role to play in the public eye. Battling back special interest lobbyists with quality scientific information, and rallying citizens around major environmental issues is vital for change, PopTech wants to help scientists engage mainstream America in issues of concern. PopTech is starting a fellows program that will put the best minds at work on the most important problems, including energy, food, water, public health, climate change, conservation ecology, green chemistry, computing, education, oceans, and national security. And they'll help the scientists and their solutions get the attention they need. With the mega problems of climate change upon us, scientists should be on par with rock stars in how well known they and the issues they work on are among the public. And yet, they're not.
PopTech states the problem beautifully - "This lack of visible scientific leaders has real consequences. Without them, science's influence is diminished in public debate. Well-funded special interests can create the appearance of facts where they do not exist, and controversy where there is little or no actual debate. The truth can become politicized, and public action on vital issues stalled. And scientists themselves can miss out on opportunities to form new kinds of interdisciplinary collaborations and relationships that can enrich their work and ideas."
As a solution, PopTech has launched the Science and Public Leadership Fellows Program. Starting in 2010, each year PopTech will choose "up to 20 high-potential, early- and mid-career scientists working in areas of critical importance to the nation and the planet." The ideal candidates will have strong communication skills - in other words, they'll be smart, socially savvy, and silver-tongued.
And they'll be tasked with spreading the word about critical issues to the same extent that other pop culture issues are spread.
With hope, luck, and some unignorably interesting scientists, environmental issues are about to take over popular thinking.