In this week's episode we follow the trail of a very secretive pioneer in eco-activism, look into the long history of the relationship between science and politics including the bizarre Doomsday clock, and Sam answers some listener's questions about spring tails, wind, and Mount Mitchell.
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In the late sixties, a soap factory in suburban Illinois discovered one of its outflow pipes had been intentionally clogged by an industrial saboteur. Does environmental damage ever demand radical action? And when does environmental protest cross the line and become eco-terrorism?
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Activists aren’t the only group that has to wrestle with the question of how far they can push before society starts to think less of them, scientists are trying to figure out how far their credibility can stretch, too. While the scientific community has consistently ranked as one of the most trusted institutions in the country—right up there with doctors and the military—survey after survey has found that among Republicans, faith in science is on the decline. This is particularly true when it comes to certain topics, like the climate.
This is not to lay the problem solely at the feet of the Right. While those same surveys find that liberals profess to believe in science, they’ve got their own subjects where they are skeptical of scientific conclusions: nuclear power and genetically modified crops, to name a few.
In response, later this month scientists, the science adjacent and the scientifically sympathetic will march on Washington and at sister protests across the US. This of course has prompted a whole new round of anxiety in the scientific community. A coastal scientist penned a New York Times op-ed declaring the march would only increase the political polarization of science, which spawned countless blog posts in response.
But can we really say that science has never been partisan? We spoke with Rob Meyer, a writer for The Atlantic about how, going all the way back to the 1940s, scientists have put out the nation’s longest running political advocacy gimmick: the Doomsday Clock.
Every so often, we take some time out from telling stories to answer questions from you, our friends and listeners. These questions have been piling up, and so we thought we’d dig through them and bring you some of the more interesting ones.
What are all those tiny little black bugs that show up in the snow, is there more wind than there used to be, and what's the deal with Mount Mitchell saying it's the highest peak east of the Mississippi?
If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-844-GO-OTTER (844-466-8837). Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.