A Shout-Out to Science

On The Signal yesterday they talked about kids who grow up non-binary. This language is quite new to me (and maybe to all of us) so pardon me if I haven’t quite got it right.

Ange and Stephen interviewed a psychiatrist who talked about how there have always been children who don’t strongly identify as male or female but how it hasn’t been acceptable in society and so they have lived in the shadows. The podcast also talked extensively about “treatment”. The treatments are not as of an illness where you are trying to change the condition. The treatments are enabling time for the child to decide what kind of puberty they wish to experience – that of a male or a female. I point this out because initially, when they talked about “treatment”, I didn’t understand what they were treating or why.

What surprised me, was that they never mentioned the role of science.

Part of the reason this non-binary gender issue might suddenly have exploded into the public eye is that now medicine allows treatment. I don’t know when puberty suppressants became available. I don’t know when sex change operations became available. But all these medical procedures are relatively new and it doesn’t surprise me that, with the possibility comes the demand. You could call it Medconomics. Fifty years ago, I’m pretty sure people had to grow up with whatever body they were born with. There was simply no choice. And with that lack of choice, what could these kids do other than dress differently? They might have tried to communicate their feelings but, without choice, what pathways could their parents explore even if they were sympathetic?

With the misinformation around Climate Change and the ignoring of scientists in that specific field, I have become more and more aware of how often we ignore science or forget science or take science for granted.

Developments in science are at the basis of much opening up of the way for societal change, when you think about it. In the ‘50s, women spent all day cooking and cleaning because it took all day. I was horrified when I watched Annabel Crabb’s “Back in time for Dinner”. Clothes washing required serious time and energy and involved several stages, the vacuuming was a proper gym work out, the washing up was much harder than it is now, and there were no microwaves. These days (I speak as a stay at home Mum) I can run the robotic vacuum cleaner, hang out the washing and have the dishwasher going all at the same time and half the chores are done. These inventions enable couples to go out and work AND have children. And that little scenario ignores the toaster, the kettle, the rice cooker, the breadmaker, the sewing machine, etc. Without science, much of the efficiency of our current lifestyle would be lost and with that loss of efficiency, there is a loss of choice. Somebody would have to stay at home and do the chores still.

Mental health is another area which has been drastically and awfully misunderstood. I remembered to a friend, recently, a book I once came across about snakes. The author commented that, in Africa, many tribes thought snakes were magical. A person would be bitten and only two tiny puncture wounds would show on the surface but, later, the person would die. This was mysterious and unexplainable. By contrast, a lion rips great holes in a person. The damage is severe and visible and the cause of death is quite evident. Similar to the snake poison, mental illness is invisible and mysterious. Until science explored chemical imbalances and enabled a better understanding of the workings of the human brain, little could be done for people whose minds operated differently to “the norm”. And where there is ignorance, there is usually fear and discrimination.

I won’t go into phones and computers and the internet and aeroplanes here. They form a massive part of our lives and have an extreme influence on almost every aspect of the world… especially in the way individuals are able to form groups and be heard across borders/boundaries/languages.

We use all this science every day. We take it for granted. We enjoy it. We get frustrated with it. But do we ever remember that without it, the world would barely have changed since the early 1800s?

Science enables change. And that’s why Climate Action is possible. The science is already there waiting for us. The research has been done over and over again (Al Gore, Ross Garnaut, Saul Griffith, Paul Hawken – to name a few authors). It’s only policy that stands in the way.

Yell down the intertubes. Hashtag (not brown) for breakfast. Vote, vote, vote.

Let Science put the Eco back into Economics.  For Earth’s sake!

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