The Sept. 14, 2016 kickoff of the US House Earth & Space Science Caucus was very well attended, with three Congresspeople addressing the crowd gathered in Rayburn House Office Building. Well over 100 people were in attendance including Congresspeople, senior staffers, journalists, senior geophysical science organization executives and of course geoscientists. The room stayed near capacity for an hour, and considerable activity by attendees was going on until the room closed over two hours later.
Why an Earth and Space Science Caucus?
There are already 75 pages worth of caucuses in the 114th Congress–yet this is the first caucus concerning geoscience in general. Given the obvious changes in weather patterns causing residential, commercial, industrial, military and critical infrastructure of order $100 billion per year in the United States, the partially avertable economic impacts alone would provide strong justification for another caucus.
By way of example, Aegis guided missile destroyer USS Truxtun pulled in to New London, CT to ride out Tropical Storm Hermine. Ironically, The USS Truxtun was a successful prototype for a fuel-saving hybrid drive for Flight IIA Arleigh Burke destroyers. Whatever one’s views on the anthropogenic component of climate dynamics, increasingly unstable and violent weather patterns and tightening petroleum resources clearly require major investment on the national priority scale. Congressman Honda noted the change seen in human attitudes across his lifetime, whereas the Congressman grew up in concentration Camp Amache in southeastern Colorado, and now a Coloradan Congressman was co-sponsoring this forward-looking caucus.
My in-person message to the seven Congressional offices I visited on Capitol Hill
My in-person message to the Congressional offices this busy legislative season included that even in a contentious session and election season, everyone can agree on promoting:
Geoscience connection to job creation
National Science Foundation basic research grants, in particular those funding PhD research yield results beyond the accepted proposals. These sometimes lucrative additional results are difficult to quantify and respectfully should not be part of a micro-managed dictate from Congress. Modern geoscience instruments are using cutting-edge techniques, advancing and exploiting advances from the top Silicon Valley contenders in hardware and software. Geoscience PhD graduates find diverse, lucrative career options from strategy management consulting and quantitative finance on down. Undergraduates affiliated with geoscience research learn valuable image/video/data processing skills in high demand today and for the future.
As to babies, seniors and other dependents that need monitoring, my company Scivision, Inc. has developed proprietary technology relevant to monitoring the well-being of individuals with a variety of conditions that require attention to unusual behavior. As the baby boomer generation ages into a cohort needing increasing levels of care, allowing seniors to remain at home longer while being monitored in a way that doesn’t require a caregiver monotonously staring at a video stream or hiring someone to sit in the home 24/7/365 will reduce cost of care while potentially catching life-threatening events such as falls without violating the privacy of the dependent individual. Naturally this applies to infants, where nervous parents startle awake in the night, squinting at the baby monitor screen, waiting for the baby to make a motion indicating they’re alright. Those persons of any age experiencing a temporary or permanent condition that puts them at risk of needing help and wanting to supplement existing care options may soon be able to benefit from technology developed from general techniques associated with processing very large ionospheric data sets. No one would dare to connect the two in a geoscience funding proposal, yet aside from the basic science advances in my PhD grants, soon lives may be enhanced and even saved by technology so developed.