In Search of Facts
by Mark Lacy, Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist and Cincinnati Nature Center Volunteer
If you're like me, keeping up with the latest environmental news, trying to learn what that news is really telling me, and wondering if that news contains misinformation, all makes it difficult for me to know what to believe and what I can do about it (except worry!). The Amazon river basin is a net carbon producer, not a sink? My HOA won't let me install rooftop solar panels? My legislators are supporting fossil fuel companies?
The complexity of the world and its issues can be very intimidating, particularly as it relates to matters of the environment and conservation. Many of us would like to contribute somehow to addressing these issues through our personal decisions, but the available options may be too technical to understand, or there may be such an overwhelming number of options we can't wade through them all. Some options are hard to judge because of all the misinformation surrounding them. And when we see science and critical thinking take a backseat to decisions by government policy makers, it may galvanize our desire to act, but it may also make us feel like giving up.
Cincinnati Nature Center has been supporting a small group of volunteer researchers who want to help others make their way through the morass of issues and approaches. This group has been ferreting out what's known about the effects of glyphosate-based herbicides (e.g., "Round-up") on human and environmental health, including the results of scientific studies which sometimes support conclusions that aren't obvious or well-publicized. The group has also been investigating "green energy", including renewable energy sources and ways to support green energy in Ohio. Many are not aware there is far more intricacy than one would think behind how energy suppliers seem to support energy consumers' desire to shift away from fossil fuel and move toward "going green."
Our research involves teasing apart technical issues, exploring different ways to look at problems, and translating the knowledge around issues for a lay audience. It's a great way to learn about the issues, including the social, political, and business context for these issues. What we look forward to is sharing what we've learned with others. The research team is actively working on finding the best way to share their results with Nature Center families so others can be armed with what they need to more easily make decisions on important issues.