Volcano monitoring good: Republican antiscientism getting tedious

The geoblogosphere has rightly been up in arms today about the idiotic comments of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who ended his list of examples of what he viewed as wasteful spending in the US stimulus bill by decrying the $140 million allocated to “something called volcano monitoring”. Maria was the first to point out that this is actually a good thing to spend money on, because it saves lives, property and jet planes (some other reactions), and Mike points out that, typically, the $140 million actually covers all the other stuff the USGS does, as well:

…repair, construction and restoration of facilities; equipment replacement and upgrades including stream gages, and seismic and volcano monitoring systems; national map activities; and other critical deferred maintenance and improvement projects.

I find the instinctive hostility to science that Jindal exhibits here rather striking. Anyone who bothered to engage their brain whilst reading their list of talking points might think. “Wait. Volcanoes are dangerous. It might be a good idea to know when they erupt, since ill preparedness can have a large human cost, not to mention a political one* – I can’t be blamed for acts of nature but I sure can get into trouble if people think I haven’t prepared adequately for them. You know, just like that thing that happened here a couple of years back. After all, it’s hard to forget with parts of New Orleans still looking like a disaster zone.”
Pure political calculation would indicate that this particular talking point might be a hard sell, and it might be best not to lump it in with the “maglev to Disneyland” (is that for real)? But it seems that for the modern Republican politician, the “science is evil” meme overwhelms even their sense of self-preservation. Are republican leaning Americans sufficiently embarrassed by their supposed representatives yet?
*Eric has highlighted this point quite nicely with his excellent posts about the social fall-out from the eruption of Chaiten.

Categories: antiscience, environment, geohazards, ranting
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Comments (14)

  1. D says:

    After all, it’s hard to forget with parts of New Orleans still looking like a disaster zone.”

    Parts of New Orleans have looked like a disaster zone since at least Old Hickory’s time. It’s part of the tourist draw.

  2. hypocentre says:

    The charitable view is that his scriptwriter was going for a cheap laugh (“Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC”).
    The uncharitable view is the guy is a cretin.

  3. D. C. Sessions says:

    The two views are not incompatible. In fact, having a cretin for a boss would seem to encourage hijinks among the speechwriters.

  4. Maria says:

    LA-LV maglev has been a fond dream of casino-loving Angelenos for quite some time, and I’m sure LV residents would use it for Disneyland as well. It is not “for real” in the sense that it was specifically earmarked in the stimulus package, but it is probably one of several projects that will compete for the allocated railroad money.

  5. hypocentre says:

    … and did you know that the word ‘cretin’ is derived from ‘Christian’?

  6. Heraclides says:

    hypocentre,
    … used to convey the meaning “is human, not beasts”, I believe.
    (Sorry to spoil your fun, but while you are right, I believe it’s meaning had a context that doesn’t hold well if you read it literally.)

  7. whomever1 says:

    Please–science is not the only area the Repubs can find funny words in–Obama discussed setting aside $8 billion for any of a number of high-speed rail projects, which might well include the long-proposed maglev train to Vegas. Or the train from LA to San Francisco. Or Pittsburgh–or along the whole East Coast. One hopes reasonable criteria will be used to choose between the different projects, but high-speed trains have worked elsewhere–shouldn’t we at least give them a try?

  8. Julia says:

    As the defense of volcano and seismic monitoring is too obvious to even bother reiterating (although I was yelling at the tv and hopping on the futon when he said that), I will move on to the maglev trains.
    I’d love to see maglev trains running from anywhere to anywhere! My partner and I were just talking the other day about how great it would be to get a high-speed maglev line from Boston to DC, and then extend it from DC down to Atlanta and then on to Florida, with a perpendicular track from New York/Philly through Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Indianapolis, etc to Chicago. Give the old Rust Belt back its land-line connection with the East Coast, and then link up depressed cities like Detroit and St Louis. And then do the Seattle-San Diego route, or at least SF-SD, in order to reduce traffic congestion, pollution, and air travel.
    If the sort of flagship, experimental version of this was tried from Disneyland to Las Vegas, it would certainly not be going to waste, as these are important centers of the tourist economy, and the desert environment of Nevada is already under seige from road construction and traffic, no?
    Forward Maglev!

  9. Nick says:

    When McCain made fun of a ~1 million dollar project to study bear migration and mating patterns, it was quite the gaffe because that study was actually lobbied for by the hunting lobby to clarify if bear populations were, in fact, on the rise (environmental groups argue that short-term gains in number are negated by decreasing diversity).
    I wonder if the volcano-observatory component was lobbied for by the Navy or something to include hazards confronting bases in the Pacific or similar…

  10. Mister Wu says:

    Republicans are actually ahead of the democrats on doing something about those nasty volcanos. Their abstinance only sex education posture will make sure we’ll have plenty of virgins to toss when the time comes.

  11. BrianD says:

    I believe the Republican position is that if volcanos were freed from government restrictions, they would regulate themselves.

  12. on-the-rocks says:

    I am sure it is just as easy to find individual Democrats that are as scientifically illiterate as Gov. Jindal. Wasn’t it Nancy Pelosi that didn’t know that natural gas was a fossil fuel?
    Would the average Democrat know the difference between Hawaiian and Alaskan volanoes any better than the average Republican? Across the board, lawyers, politicians, and talkingheads have little or no background in science.
    It is just that this time, it was a Republican that stuck his foot in his mouth. If someone proposed diverting money from a pet project of John Kerry – to volcano monitoring – do you think he would have a more intelligent response?

  13. Chris Rowan says:

    So… I should stop criticising the ignorant things a politician has said in public because other ones might be being just as ignorant in private?
    An interesting argument.