Earth Day 2017 might well be looked upon as a watershed moment, when scientists around the world took to public demonstrations in support and defence of the scientific enterprise. The erosion of public support for science is especially alarming in the US. Tangible manifestations of this phenomenon include creationism, climate change denialism, anti-vaccine activism, anti-GMO activism, Moon landing denialism, UFO conspiracy theories, etc. etc. And how ironic it is that the anti-science, and indeed anti-truth, movement originates in the US, the world's most scientifically productive nation.
Nowadays, it is all too easy for people to take science and technology for granted. The fruits of science are everywhere. Modern biomedical science has doubled human life expectancy, cured many diseases, and continues to find ever more effective treatments for others. Newton's laws enabled us to put satellites in orbit, to put men on the Moon, and to send spacecraft to explore our solar system and beyond. Faraday and Maxwell's work on electromagnetism is the basis for every single electrical gadget we use every day. Quantum mechanics underpin all microcircuit technology, which drives all the computing devices and smartphones we use every day. Even Einstein's special theory of relativity has practical application: it enables the Global Positioning System to keep time accurately, so that we can navigate on Earth with high precision. Every piece of modern technology is based on the work of scientists and engineers. These are just some of the things that we benefit from every day, which science has made possible. Entire academic careers can be spent chronicling all the modern advances made possible by science.
We scientists are the heirs to this rich and proud legacy of discovery and invention. We uphold and build on this legacy as we make discoveries of our own, every day in the lab. But it is within our power as practicing scientists to do more: we must be ambassadors for science to our fellow citizens. In the course of our daily lives, if someone asks us what we do for a living, each of us should be proud to say that we're a scientist, to make the case that the science we do matters, and to explain how it can benefit society. The discoveries of science will continue to lead to better health, a stronger economy, and better quality of life for society now and for all generations to come. Let us each do our part to persuade the public that the scientific enterprise is, and always will be, well worth supporting.