Thursday, July 7, 2011

For decades, scientists have a gentle, passionless souls have been seen. But now, in the face of widespread indifference to global warming, a small group of science radicals are angry. Will more follow?

James Hansen never expected to become a radical activist in the age of 65. He is a grandfather who loves nothing more than exploring nature with his grandchildren. He holds a respectable job as director of Nasa 's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. But he is 70 now, and he has a criminal record.

Hansen gets arrested testifies in court on behalf of others, the law and issues of public pronouncements, the gag made Nasa have to try him, broke - all because he bear 't the idea that his grandson could blame him for a burned-out planet.

Hansen is a climate scientist 's climate scientists. He has testified before Congress on the subject, but had enough of the standard response of government - "greenwash", he calls it. Last month, Hansen was an uncompromising plea for Americans to get involved with unrest over climate change. "We want you to take into consideration something hard - coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of summer vacation and in civil disobedience, which will probably get you arrested," he says in a letter to

But many Americans to turn arrested in Washington, it 's unlikely that Hansen will end up sharing a cell with other scientists. He cuts a lonely figure on the barricades, almost all scientists run shy of public sector misconduct.

And that's why Hansen – and a handful of other scientists – are bypassing traditional outlets for scientific results.

Those who have hitherto fought within the ivory towers to establish the science of climate change now need to muster up enough courage to take their fighting spirit out of the laboratory and onto the streets. Activist scientists will soon find themselves wondering why they cowered in the shadows for all those years. After all, as Bronowski also said: "dissent is the native activity of the scientist".

Michael Brooks ? Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms and Conditions | More Feeds


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