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.