Global political climate of ‘fear’ threatens ecologists’ work

Source: Nature

Thousands of people march through Central London, UK in support of science and research
Protesters march in support of science and evidence-based policy in London in April 2017.Credit: Jay Shaw Baker/NurPhoto via Getty

The recent global rise in political populism and nationalism is creating a ‘landscape of fear’ that is threatening the work and personal freedoms of ecologists, say the authors of an editorial in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Scientists face a public increasingly distrustful of their work, say the editors1, but changes to government policies and legal reforms are bringing ecologists, who document and address environmental challenges, into direct conflict with policymakers.

The authors cite several examples; in Brazil, government reshuffles have weakened or obliterated departments tasked with protecting the environment. In the United States and elsewhere, gag orders on scientists limit their ability to openly discuss their work, and politicians ignore or discredit scientific evidence during decision-making processes.