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Happy World Oceans Day from North Carolina!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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It’s World Oceans Day today (in North Carolina it’s “No It’s Not!” Day), so the moment seemed opportune for a very brief followup on the Plugged-In post of a week or so ago about the NC state legislature considering a law that would make it all kinds of illegal for you to try to figure out what the ocean was likely to do in the next century. That in turn generated a bit of attention for the pure madness that passes for legislation in my state of North Carolina.

I couldn't find an image of Poseidon with his head in his hands, so this will have to do.

Some of the news since then is terrible – I got a lot of pushback (look for it on my Facebook page, on June 1) about my post being “hysterical North Carolina bashing,” what with the legislation being merely floated and having no actual champion. Well, that’s changed: the legislation has since then passed –unanimously! – out of the NC Senate’s Environment, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee, and its on-the-record champion is state senator David Rouzer, a Republican “Young Gun” currently looking to take his message of “Science is dumb” to the U.S. Congress. The NC Senate, perhaps abashed to consider such absurdity on World Oceans Day, will discuss the matter further next week.

Some of the news is better. The Colbert Report took the NC legislators to task for their knuckleheaddery, which has helped draw more attention to both NC and oceanic reality.

North Carolinians like me still hope that shining a light on this will keep this legislation from going much further, but then again we thought shining a light on it the first time would keep it from going any further at all. With the whole world laughing at them, the members of the committee voted unanimously to move forward. So our hopes, though high, are diminished.

By the way – if you’re wondering, here’s the report the NC Coastal Resources Commission first requested and then rejected.

And here, once again, is the original legislation the hopes to make it illegal not only for anybody not in the Division of Coastal Management to develop a sea level rise estimate (including, many fear, the university science departments themselves) but for anybody at all to make such an estimate based on anything but linear projection of the historical record.

So: happy World Oceans Day from North Carolina, where some of us expect to have a lot more oceans to love over the next century, and others want to put those of us who believe that in jail.


Scott Huler About the Author: A writer who commonly explores science, culture, and the relationship between the two. Follow on Twitter @huler.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Trent1492 2:49 pm 06/8/2012

    That Colbert Report segment that you linked too was hilarious! “Ski jump to hell”. LOL!

    Link to this
  2. 2. SiaraDelyn 4:11 pm 06/8/2012

    I think that North Carolina might have to suffer a string of horrible natural disasters before they face the bitter reality that they can’t control nature with Republican legislation. What a shame.

    Of course, the people who suffer will not be the ones making these laws.

    Link to this
  3. 3. doug_pdq 4:39 pm 06/8/2012

    Back in the 1970s some friends and I used to joke about the name NOAA, meaning that it administered the ocean and/or atmosphere. So when a hurricane was threatening we’d just suggest we call NOAA offices and ask them to turn it around, or a drought, or too much rain, etc. So why not just recognize that government is idiotic and haughty with an overblown sense of their own power and importance. Also they are ignorant of things they are trying to control or be responsible for. I’d guess less than 10% of legislators, state or federal, could tell us what an exponent is; and probably less than 1-2% could do any exponential curve fitting with any kind of data. We should all be ashamed of making fun of these fine statesmen. And North Carolina is no better or worse than D. C., or any other state.

    Link to this
  4. 4. huler 5:46 pm 06/8/2012

    @doug_pdq you’re exactly right on both counts. scientific/mathematic illiteracy is a huge problem, and NC, though currently ridiculed, is no worse than anyplace else I’ve lived (OH, MO, CA, PA, GA, TN, MI). Thanks for the comment.

    Link to this
  5. 5. SiaraDelyn 12:23 pm 06/9/2012

    This is not “business as usual”, hular. This is manipulating the public by censoring intelligent scientific discussion and the distribution of scientific information.

    Shame on you for suggesting that manipulating the input of the scientific community is normal, happens everywhere, and is no big deal.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Trent1492 5:16 am 06/11/2012

    In Virginia, Republican lawmaker says the term “sea level rise” is a “left wing term” and censors the offending item out of a science report to the Virginia state legislature:

    Virginia’s dying marshes and climate change denial:

    Lawmakers avoid buzzwords on climate change bills

    Link to this

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