Monday, October 4, 2010

An Embarrassment and an Outrage

The mission of the National Science Foundation is

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…" 

For too long, NSF has been straddling the line between a science organization and advocate on the subject of 'global warming.' Now, they have clearly come down on the side of advocacy. This from the New York Times.

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $700,000 grant to the Civilians, a New York theater company, to finance the production of a show about climate change. “The Great Immensity,” with a book by Steven Cosson (“This Beautiful City”) and music and lyrics by Michael Friedman (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”), tells the story of Polly, a photojournalist who disappears while working in the rain forests of Panama. The grant is a rare gift to an arts organization from the foundation, a federal agency that pays for science, engineering and mathematics research and education. The company says it plans to spend the money on the development and evaluation of the show, as well as on a tour and educational programs, including post-show panel discussions with experts in related scientific fields. No performance dates have been announced.

Here a summary of the play:

Polly, a photojournalist, disappears while working in the rainforests of Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal. Phyllis, Polly's twin, embarks on an international search for her lost sister that spans the North American continent, from the tropics to arctic Canada. The play weaves actual interviews with locals from the two regions and some of our nation's top scientists into the twins' story, as the sisters struggle to survive polar bears, tundra buggies, snakes, and a Chinese pimp - all while grappling with the harsh and seemingly hopeless realities of climate change.

A Chinese pimp?

As a scientist, this is an outrage. NSF should not be in the business of funding advocacy theatre (isn't that why we have a National Endowment for the Arts?) or theatre of any kind.

Especially in these difficult economic times, our representatives in Washington should be good stewards of our tax dollars, not funding pet projects.  Congress should look into this and demand accountability. 

Hat tip: Watts Up With That

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