Why the AAPG should March for Science

Today the Geological Society of America (GSA) announced via email to members that it supports the March for Science (which is shown on the March for Science partners page but appears to be absent from the main GSA website). This is notable because GSA has far more professional members in the conservative oil and gas industry than, say, AGU, where the oil and gas folks are greatly outnumbered.

Two prominent earth science professional societies are still absent from the list: the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG). These are dominated by professional, private sector earth scientists who probably vote at the more conservative end of the scale. Why should they march?

Simple: Science is just as critical for them as for scientists pursuing topics favored by liberals. Their participation would help to balance the scales in the popular media more. They could help keep the March for Science a march for science and not simply become a march against Trump/GOP.

Well, you say, that is helping the people promoting the march and not the members of these organizations so much.  GG isn’t so sure.

Right now oil and gas companies face considerable emotional opposition to their operations. In the absence of respect for science, they are left with no real tools other than shear magnitude of political money to fight the anger of many communities assigning all their ills to oil and gas operations. Yes, sometimes the science shows those communities are right–but sometimes it shows that things are far more complex (e.g., some examples of natural gas migrating into aquifers are not from new activities but gas rising along old, abandoned wells with poor or degrading casings) and sometimes it finds there isn’t any merit to community claims. Furthermore, scientific understanding of the cause of any impacts can lead to the development of mitigation strategies that can allow resource development while limiting or eliminating harmful impacts.

Understanding and respecting science for what it is offers perhaps the best path forward in accommodating conflicting agendas in many disciplines.  Allowing science to be discredited as a tool in developing government policy might have some short term gains in some situations, but that will be counterbalanced by other situations where emotions run high and motivations will appear suspicious.  Science is, at its heart, simply a rational way to solve problems.

“Petroleum” and “Exploration” are modifiers to “Geologists” and “Geophysicists;” they are not the essence of them. Science is the essence of geology and geophysics.  GG is hoping that, as long as a lot of people are marching for science, that they are joined by the AAPG and SEG.  It’s best for all concerned.

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  1. Why the AAPG should march, part 2 | The Grumpy Geophysicist - April 11, 2017

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