A day for celebration and protest.

Saturday is Earth Day, the annual holiday to advocate good stewardship of the planet, launched in 1970 by the late Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson.

This year it will be marked by a March for Science, which bills itself as a “global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies and governments.”

We have mixed feeling about the pairing. Science, to be credible, must be impartial, objective and nonpartisan. The widespread reduction of federal support for scientific endeavors proposed by the Donald Trump administration – cuts to budgets of the National Institutes of HealthThe health status of millions of people is projected to be affected through, for example, increases in malnutrition; increased deaths, diseases and injury due to extreme weather events; increased burden of diarrhoeal diseases; increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to higher ..., the EPA, NASA and agencies performing and funding research – would do great harm. They would slow the quest to cure disease, feed a hungry world, combat climate changeClimate change is a lasting change in weather patterns over long periods of time. It can be a natural phenomena and and has occurred on Earth even before people inhabited it. Quite different is a current situation that is also referred to as climate change, anthropogenic climate change, or ... and keep the U.S. economically competitive. That makes the need to rally public support of the scientific research imperative.

Marches by scientists and their supporters, however, risk being seen as political acts. If so, that could hurt support for science in the long run. Countering that is the potential for demonstrating that scientists are not rarified beings who all look like Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future.

Since the first Earth Day, the knowledge gained through science led to big reductions in air and waterClimate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass ... pollution and acid rainRain is liquid water in the form of droplets that have condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then precipitated—that is, become heavy enough to fall under gravity. Rain is a major component of the water cycle and is responsible for depositing most of the fresh water on the Earth. It .... It spurred technological advances, energy savingsEnergy conservation refers to reducing energy consumption through using less of an energy service. Energy conservation differs from efficient energy use, which refers to using less energy for a constant service. For example, driving less is an example of energy conservation. Driving the same ..., and better medical products, practices and procedures. The list goes on and on.

Late last year DEKA Research, in partnership with the University of New Hampshire, learned that it would receive nearly $300 million, primarily in federal funds, to build and staff a regenerative medicine laboratory. Its mission? To develop the techniques and technology needed to generate tissue used to replace organs and limbs, including those lost in war. The ultimate economic benefits for New Hampshire could be enormous.

Earth Day 2017 also coincides with two other promising developments. One is the campaign, led by Republican luminaries, to convince Congress to tax carbon emissionsEmissions of greenhouse gases, greenhouse gas precursors, and aerosols associated with human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, land-use changes, livestock, fertilisation, etc. (IPCC) and refund the money earned to consumers. The so-called Carbon Fee and Dividend plan would tax the carbon in fossil fuelEnergy from fossil sources, such as natural gas and oil. This type of energy contributes to climate change and because of its finite nature it is not a permanent resource. at the point of its first sale at a rate of $15 per ton. The price per ton would increase by $10 per year, providing a growing incentive to reduce emissions and the burning of fossil fuel. Energy consumers would be insulated from costCost: The consumption of resources such as labour time, capital, materials, fuels, etc. as the consequence of an action. In economics, all resources are valued at their opportunity cost, which is the value of the most valuable alternative use of the resources. Costs are defi ned in a variety of ... increases associated with the tax by the dividends they receive.

The other development has the potential to reduce the high cost of batteries used in cell phones and other devices, and speed the switch from petroleum to electricity to power vehicles.

The University of Texas at Austin recently announced that engineering professor John Goodenough, the co-inventor of the lithium ion batteryThe lithium-ion accumulator uses lithium ions which float between two electrodes and an organic electrolyte. The negative electrolyte consists of graphite and the positive electrolyte consists lithium nickel or lithium cobalt oxides., and lead researcher Dr. Helena Braga have created a solid-state battery that uses not a liquid but glass as its electrolyteAn electrolyte is a solid or liquid chemical substance that receives ions, gives them off and can transport ions. Accumulators with a solid electrolyte can be used as absorbent glass mat batteries or gel batteries.. The battery uses sodium extracted from sea water rather than lithium, which is in short supply and expensive. It will not explode or catch fire, stores three times the energy of a lithium battery, recharges in an hour or so and lasts far longer than its predecessor.

The burning of fossil fuelsEnergy from fossil sources, such as natural gas and oil. This type of energy contributes to climate change and because of its finite nature it is not a permanent resource. for transportation is responsible for 27 percent of the carbon dioxideCarbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted in several ways. Naturally through the carbon cycle and through human activities like the burning of fossil fuels. These human activities have increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial revolution and these high ... emitted in the U.S. Goodenough’s solid-state battery, by giving cars three times the range of current all-electric models and making them cheaper, could significantly reduce those emissions.

Those developments, among others, make this Earth Day an occasion for celebration – as well as, however indirectly, for protest.

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