In 2010, Wisconsin elected Republican Scott Walker as Governor. Scott Walker quickly proved that rather than helping the people of Wisconsin, he was more interested in doing everything he could to push anti-government and pro-corporate ideologies that included ignoring the opinions of scientists in favor of the opinions of corporations, especially when it came to issues that could affect the environment:
Since taking office in 2011 Walker has moved to reduce the role of science in environmental policymaking and to silence discussion of controversial subjects, including climate change, by state employees. And he has presided over a series of controversial rollbacks in environmental protection, including relaxing laws governing iron mining and building on wetlands, in both cases to help specific companies avoid regulatory roadblocks. Among other policy changes, he has also loosened restrictions on phosphorus pollution in state waterways, tried to restrict wind energy development and proposed ending funding for a major renewable energy research program housed at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Scott Walker even took aim at the state’s Department of Natural Resources, which has operated for decades with strong public support in a state that has always placed great value on outdoor pursuits such as hunting and fishing:
Most recently Walker has targeted the science and educational corps at the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which has responsibility for protecting and managing forests and wildlife, along with air and water quality. In his 2015–17 budget, released in February, he proposed eliminating a third of the DNR’s 58 scientist positions and 60 percent of its 18 environmental educator positions. (The cuts were approved by the state legislature’s budget committee in May, and the budget is currently making its way through the legislature.) Walker also attempted to convert the citizen board that sets policy for the DNR to a purely advisory body and proposed a 13-year freeze on the state’s popular land conservation fund—both changes that lawmakers rejected in the face of intense public objections.
These actions even drew criticism from some of Scott Walker’s erstwhile Republican allies in the state legislature:
Although some conservatives in Wisconsin praise Walker’s actions, he’s attracted the ire of others, including former Republican state senator Dale Schultz, who retired from the senate last winter after 32 years in the legislature. “I think what’s going on is appalling,” Schultz says. “As somebody who thinks that should be the first thing conservatives ought to be doing is protecting our environment, it’s embarrassing. I’m a pretty pro-business Republican. But a clean environment is essential to business. This is just wholly unacceptable.”
The residents of Wisconsin decided to switch gears in this year’s election for Governor, and elected Democrat Tony Evers, a career educator, to replace right-wing ideologue Scott Walker. One of Tony Evers’ first actions upon election has been to bring science back into the state’s decision making process:
Gov.-elect Tony Evers has announced a panel advising him on agriculture, energy and natural resources, while vowing to “bring science back to decision-making” in those areas.
A Monday news release said the panel will work with Evers’ transition team “on identifying strategies to protect Wisconsin’s natural resources, strengthen our agricultural industries, and work toward clean energy innovation.”
“Whether it’s ensuring we have clean drinking water, protecting our natural resources, standing up for our family dairy farms, or investing in clean, renewable energy, we have to get to work on addressing these issues that affect our kids and our future,” Evers said in the release.
Science is a lynchpin of modern society. From the moment we wake up to the time we go to sleep, our lives are made easier thanks to modern science. Whether it is the alarm clock, the weather report, the asphalt we drive on, the cars we drive in, the plentiful and safe food we eat, the medicine we take when we get sick, the cell phone we use, the electricity that powers all of our modern inventions, we owe so much to science it is almost impossible to quantify. Valuing science should not be a partisan stance, it should be a modern stance.
Thankfully for the people of Wisconsin, they now have a Governor who again values science.