Opinion: American voters have opted for sanity and science

In this presidential election, America experienced a magnetic reversal, a flipping of our north and south geomagnetic poles. The flip was moral, not geological, transporting the country from the Dark Ages to enlightenment. The science metaphor is apt. For the past four years this administration promoted and practiced ignorance of science. It banished evidence, reason, expertise and experts in favor of delusion, conspiracy, hogwash, and quacks. For four years it dismissed politically uncomfortable facts as fake, preferring what Kellyanne Conway famously termed “alternative facts,” an Orwellian euphemism for lying with a straight face and a crooked soul. The magnetic reversal will also sweep aside the president’s litter of sycophants and toadies, who in their craven silence were complicit in his calculated flight from lucidity and duty.

It can’t be soon enough to bring America back to sanity and science. The Joe Biden-Kamala Harris docket for Jan. 21, 2021, is full, beginning with the science of curbing COVID-19 and of instituting smart environmental stewardship. While the nation’s attention was gripped by the pandemic, the president quietly issued 70 major executive orders that emasculated critical environmental safeguards. These rollbacks, The Economist reports, “increase the amount of lung-damaging fine particulate matter belched by coal-fired power plants, methane leaked by oil and gas wells, and CO2 emitted by cars and trucks” — an extra 2 billion tons in the next 15 years. Reversing these executive orders will save the nation from paying the price now and later in poisoned air, children’s asthmatic diseases, and the ferocity of storms, fires and property devastation fueled by climate change. It will also be a clean-air blow for reinstating the U.S. in the Paris climate agreement.

Reinstatement is also due the agency professionals whom the president summarily fired after the election just because they did their jobs: Michael Kuperberg, head of the U.S. Global Change Program, dared update Congress about the threats of global climate change; Neil Chatterjee, head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, recommended that economic markets should be opened to renewable energy and carbon pricing; and Chris Krebs, head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, had the temerity to certify the Nov. 3 election as “the most secure in American history.” Their reappointment would affirm the primacy of evidence-based science in the face of the president’s deceit and disinformation. Same for the scientists whom the administration barred from advising the EPA on smart environmental policy.

To be fair, the president isn’t devoid of science. He likes hydrology, expounding frequently on the flow of water through faucets, toilets and showerheads. He’s also devoted 285 of his 1,400-plus days as president studying the physics of a golf ball’s trajectory. It’s important research — so important that he skipped the G-20’s global pandemic summit of world leaders to play golf. He also must have missed the coronavirus briefing that day, Nov. 20. The U.S. posted a record 198,500 new cases.

The toll would have been much less had people worn their masks. After Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued a mask mandate on July 2, the 24 Kansas counties that complied saw a 6% drop in the weekly average of daily COVID infections, whereas counties that didn’t suffered a 100% increase — results confirmed by CDC and University of Kansas researchers. Yet the president continued to mock mask-wearing, surrendering medical science to political expediency and his own blinkered delusional reality. With COVID cases surging to record levels, he still proclaimed, “We’re turning the corner, we’re turning the corner.” Indeed, we were turning the corner — into hospital wards, funeral homes and graveyards, grieving over and burying fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, a thousand or more a day. “That’s all I hear about now,” the president whined. “Turn on the television — ‘Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.’ By the way, on November 4, you won’t hear about it anymore.”

We wish it were so. Now, in the weeks after the election, the decibels of COVID disease and death are deafening. It’s a body count that history will bestow on the president and his lackeys: to date, 13 million cases; nearly 270,000 dead. Until the Biden-Harris administration takes over, it will get worse. The president is pushing his “herd mentality” to promote herd immunity. The herd is us — all 330 million Americans being told to wave the white flag, waive safeguards, get sick, and enjoy your immunity — if you recover and if the immunity sticks. Two big ifs, given the ferocity of the COVID virus. Herd immunity means tens of millions of cases, packed hospitals, COVID roulette, and death sentences for seniors. Laughing at hogwash science is fine. Dying by it isn’t.

— Leonard L. Krishtalka is director of the Biodiversity Institute and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas.


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