November 23, 2011
Nothing like a national holiday for focusing the mind on giving thanks.
This year, though, my thoughts are bending in an odd way. I find myself giving thanks for things…scientific. Things that have made possible what I truly care about: loving connections. Here's what I mean:
*I'm thankful for the airplane technology that made it possible for me to zip out to the West Coast for several Moms Clean Air Force meetings, and tuck in a visit with my older son, who will be traveling to see his beloved grandfather in New Orleans. My own grandfather's generation did not have such easy, fast access to loved ones.
Happy Thanksgiving, dear Alex!
*I'm thankful for the technology that has made it possible for my son Theo to teach me some pretty important lessons about creative flow: Create it, share it, and create some more. Theo started writing music–recording himself, adding instrumentation and laying down beats, mixing tracks–on his simple laptop. He shares what he has written immediately, via email. Astonishing. He's taught me so much about fearlessness, about pushing boundaries.
Happy Thanksgiving, beloved Theo!
*I'm thankful for the simple point-and-shoot that has added an entirely new dimension to the way I see the world–and share it. And get instant feedback. The things my friends teach me are amazing. Suddenly, because of brilliant engineering, I'm able to express myself in ways never before possible.
Happy Thanksgiving, wise and generous friends!
*This weekend I'm going to visit with a family of four–not one of whom, for various reasons, would be alive without the brilliant medical technology scientists have developed.
Happy Thanksgiving to all the babies who have been able to join us in this world because of scientists willing to push the frontiers of life!
Happy Thanksgiving to all the scientists whose brainpower has snatched lives from untimely death!
*Speaking of friends, what about all those speedy but nonetheless sticky connections with friends and families that we've been able to rely on, via internet, telephone–all that gadgetry. No, it isn't the same as real encounters. But it has a lot going for it.
Happy Thanksgiving, via Internet!
*I'll go for lots of walks this week, and be grateful that we're breathing cleaner air now than we were forty years ago. Not clean enough–but so much better.
This was the year I realized a long-held dream of visiting India–but my first impression, getting off the plane in New Delhi, was to be stunned by how severe the air pollution was. Within minutes my eyes and nose were streaming. I'm sad to think how many children there are born with elevated mercury levels, how many must suffer damage to lungs, hearts and brains–and in China the problem is even worse. Americans must do their part to clean the air; other countries will do the same, eventually, because people will demand it. We share the air.
Happy Thanksgiving to the scientists and engineers who are making it possible to clean up messes we are making!
And yes, that's a complicated one, because industrial technology has made these messes. We frack for gas, we drill for oil, we burn coal. We pollute. More than necessary. But we want and need fuel. Scientists will find cleaner ways. Will we have the wisdom to take advantage of new science?
*And how about government officials who really understand and respect what scientists tell us about the health effects of pollution on children?
Happy Thanksgiving, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who is doing so much to make the world a safer place for all of us–and upholding the noble goal of "transcending partisanship" set out by….Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970, announcing the Clean Air Act!
*And here's something old-fashioned, with a new twist: Social activism. I'm grateful that we live in a country where we can demonstrate displeasure. Think of the computer technology that makes it possible for grass roots to become prairies overnight.
How remarkable that anyone with a cell phone can capture evidence of the shameful abuse of police power (I'm thinking especially of the police who opened brutal attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Berkeley. Also shameful: the individual attacks on people in Occupy camps, by so-called Occupiers.)
Happy Thanksgiving, to all who adopt new technology for that old-fashioned fight for rights–and remind us of that most fundamental right, citizenship.
Trains, planes, cars, buses. Test tubes, incubators, transfusions, T cells. Cell phones, Skype, iPads, laptops. There is no end to the way science and technology have improved our lives. Come to think of it, I'm alive because of the science that revealed cancer early enough to stop it.
But when you get right down to it, the reason I'm feeling grateful to science is that it deepens our humanity. Science deepens our connection to the ancient wonders of our world. Science can show us the way forward, in cherishing our planet. And it can catapult us backwards. Science is neutral, neither good nor bad. We are not. We have a choice how to use the power of science. I hope we will use it in the service of the oldest of human values: connectivity.
Love, family, friendship. Life. No matter how complicated things get, aren't we lucky to be part of this vibrant wash of body and heart and soul? We're all in this together–scientist, denier, Luddite, futurist. We're all connected. It's for that I am most grateful.